Sous Les Bedsheets
The Context interviews Charlotte Rampling
Under The Sand is a comeback for you, isn't it?
It's true. It's a long time that I really haven't worked - almost 10 years. Well, I've continued to work, but in things that absolutely would not get attention, because that was all I felt I could handle at the time
So it was your choice to be out of the world of film?
It was. I don't think people have not thought of me; that hasn't been the problem. They might've had difficulty putting me in things, because I was rather an odd character; not quite a conventional actress.
I don't know. I just started to feel better. It began with Michael Cacoyannis's Cherry Orchard, 3 years ago - that's when I came out, as they say. And then I was in Signs And Wonders, and played Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.
They're quite different to the sorts of roles you became famous for. Instead of playing the wild child, you're now playing older women facing up to difficult truths.
Yes, but they could also be older wild childs, these people. And I think that's what you do at this time of life. You can be a wild child, be extremely beautiful, have the world at your feet, fall down constantly, get yourself up, move on, know that you've still got time to get back on your feet and do other things - and suddenly, this time in your life arrives, and you know that you don't have that much more time. Everything's starting to be different. Your husband starts to leave you, you're abandoned again, your children have left; you're still beautiful, but you're 50.
How did you feel about playing topless sex scenes in this film?
Well, I was a bit worried about it, but I think it was all right. When Francois Ozon said he wanted me to do it, I said, "You've got to promise if it looks awful, we're not going to use it." It's not a vain thing, it's just insulting to an audience.
You've never seemed too bashful.
No, no, never been bashful (laughs). Never been bashful on screen. Could be a little mouse inside my own home, but once I'm on a set - that's what I do, that's what I feel makes me move on: going out without a net. I have no fear of real things - I'm terrified of all the rest - but I don't know reality, because I've always lived somehow marginal with reality. The choice of my work has also cultivated that. But I'm in a sense fearless when I'm doing things. Maybe it's trying to push the limit.
With films like The Night Porter, did you feel you were pushing the limit? Was it something you learned from?
Mm, in many ways. What you have to do is somehow turn off the sound of all the stuff that's going on when a film like Night Porter comes out, and just move on, knowing what you've done. And I knew what I'd done in that film with Dirk Bogarde. Whether people saw it or not remained to be seen, but we knew we'd done something - so with that knowledge, I moved on. You just don't have to listen to all those personal insults from everybody. I was shat upon, especially when Joe Levene took me to America, and I became the Kinky Queen of New York - which I suppose in retrospect sounds rather fun, but I didn't like it at the time!
With Under The Sand, you're playing a woman with a very strong sexual identity - something that seems to be more common in French films than American or British films.
It says a lot about France. The French have always been really interested in sex, they've always been very open about it - married men have had mistresses, it was the traditional thing; and women have always been included in society. French women have been made beautiful by the French people - they're very aware of their bodies, the way they move and speak, they're very confident of their sexuality. French society's made them like that. So films will project that.
By working with a younger director like Francois Ozon, are you trying to give new French cinema a higher profile?
Well, I hope so - and perhaps that was one of his ulterior motives in casting me. There was a lot of interest in me coming back. If you can get people to see the film, it can open the way for other films. And I think his talent is extraordinary.