I never think of my age.
I think of my life
(Psychologies Magazine nr 219 France, May 2003)
By Helene Mathieu
Astonishing in Francis Ozons new film The Swimming Pool, Charlotte Rampling is exceptional. At an age when actresses slow down their activities, her career explodes mirroring her life.
Following periods spent in the shadowy depths comes a superb blossoming.
There is, of course, this gaze that finds its difficult path beneath her eyelids, the smooth voice with a slight accent at the end of a phrase, the tall, delicate, slim body. Charlotte Rampling is all of this. Very much as one had imagined. She is also a more and more magnificent actress. And we have the proof with The Swimming Pool (released 21st May). She is a woman in harmony with herself. Revealing certain painful times with measured words, she is careful not to place responsibility onto others; she is just as elegant internally. She asks to re-read her words, is astonished to have said so much and, at a stroke, erases a painful chapter of her life. I no longer wish to talk about that. One rebels. She offers her most gentle smile. Gentle but firm. Then she leaves on foot for another meeting with the broad strides of a liberated woman.
There is always an incredible boldness in your method of performing. Here in this film you play a frustrated Englishwoman who strips naked before an elderly gardener. Are you as audacious in your life?
Yes. Its a part of my nature even if I dont sleep with elderly gardeners! (She laughs). I abandon myself in life as I do in my characters. I love to take the risk of abandoning myself. But Im not audacious just for the pleasure of provoking. Im like that. Thats all. Societys rules and mores dont interest me. This doesnt stop me from being correct!
You had a very liberal education?
No. My father was a Colonel and I had a very strict education. Part of me became bold to avoid being stifled by his rages. The more there is oppression, the more there is rebellion. Within my parents camp, I chose my father and I became his little lieutenant, whereas my sister was very close to my mother.
In interviews you never speak of your mother
In a certain way, I have put her out of my memories. My mother was a very fragile woman. I think she had manic-depressive tendencies; an exuberance that embarrassed me a little and which masked a profound despair. Her mood swings made me a little afraid. Sometimes she was totally cloistered and one couldnt see her. But at that time, they didnt treat this condition and one didnt talk about it. I think also that I felt excluded from her relationship with my sister. There was something strange between them. When my sister died, my mother did not want to continue living.
In the articles on you that mention that death, they talk of her being struck down with a sudden illness, sometimes of suicide. Is there doubt about this?
No. There is no doubt. At the absolute request of my father, we never told the truth to my mother. Right up to her death three years ago, it was a secret we carried between us. In all reality, my mother plunged into a depression from which she never recovered. As for me, in one fell swoop, I lost the two feminine elements in my life. My mother was so ill I didnt dare show my own distress. In fact, I could not grieve for my sister up until Under the Sands, Ozons film. Probably I made this film because it touched on this area. I could, without my knowing it, expiate a certain pain. I went to the end of the rope. You speak of my boldness and so, the kind of freedom I now feel as a human being has to do with all that journey. I was the prisoner of a past that was too deeply buried. Its never too late to fulfil ones life. Things arrive one after the other in their own time to open doors.
You began your career as a light actress at a very early age. How did you continue afterwards?
I began in light comedy in miniskirts, sparkling, bubbly. When that death happened I could no longer make pure entertainment. I fled the bright lights. I went into my shadowy side. I chose those films that suited my mood, to help me understand why my sister had made that gesture. The Night Porter and other films unknowingly led me into researching invisible forces.
Much later, I was obliged to stop making films to retreat completely into myself. I shut myself into a clinic in London that provided different therapies in a spirit of community with others who suffered like me.
Is it not difficult for a star to be rendered naked in front of other people?
Appearances dont carry much weight in the face of a quest to find again a will to live. You search, with all the force that is left to you, to rekindle that little flame that is your life. If you want it, the counterweight of hope will always return. But, you must want it with an incredible intensity. When you have gone through that, one understands so many things about human beings. I had the courage to do that and Im proud of it.
You are experiencing an exceptional second career. Is there a link with the work you have done with yourself?
Absolutely. When I was approaching 40, I did not know if I could make films again. The main thing was to stay alive. Then, several years later, I felt ready. A real substance began to take place inside me, it was still fragile but it was living and in good health. I was once again ready to show myself, to receive and to give. And in great form physically. After one reaches 40, one deserves everything one has. We merit the face and the body that we have.
You are, moreover, one of the only actresses who doesnt try to look ten years younger
I am part of the first generation of women who, at 50 years of age can be seductive. Another kind of seductiveness, much deeper, more mature. It is the seduction of a woman in full possession of her feminine powers, with its immense experience. Why camouflage it?
Why dont other women have your wisdom?
Because I dont think of my age, I think of my life.
You have known separation in your marriage. Did you feel abandoned once again?
Each difficult stage in ones life brings up the same old anguish. They recall all the painful separations you lived through in your childhood and all those that followed. But I havent considered that separation as a rupture. My working instructions for life have changed but I continue to love. I havent played the anger or revenge game. I have pardoned. I chose that road to go down. No one is at fault.
Can a man understand that? To separate and continue to love?
A man can understand that if a woman shows him the way. It is she who takes the man where he dares not go. He will understand the woman if the woman helps him.
In several days you will be in Cannes to present Swimming Pool. After that do you have any other projects?
A new step. For the first time I will take to the stage. Before, I couldnt. I was afraid I couldnt be consistent every day. I was terribly ashamed not to be able to make it. Now Im ready. Its proof that I have been liberated from my very deepest neurosis. The true proof.
What is your relationship with your father today?
Our relationship is gentle, very gentle now. He is at peace for the first time in his life, at 95 years of age. I think he will live for a long time to profit from his last years of tranquillity. I have also worked for a long time with him so that he can be well and happy. I have also worked in the same way with others that I love including myself.
Its good to say that you, yourself are one of the people you love.
Its very important.