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A Spirit Between Worlds

Cinematographer Victor Seguin, AFC distinguishes a character’s dual lives in the French film La Vénus d'argent.

Directed by Héléna Klotz, La Vénus d'argent (aka Spirit of Ecstasy) presents the tale of Jeanne Francoeur (played by Claire Pommet), a young woman striving to escape the circumstances of her birth by morphing into a silent predator in the world of investment banking. Working with Panavision Paris, cinematographer Victor Seguin, AFC employed PVintage and Primo 70 lenses and a Panavised Venice camera to help visualize Jeanne’s contrasting environments. Here, Seguin shares his experiences collaborating with Klotz and finding a unique look for each of Jeanne's worlds.

Panavision: How did you become involved in this project?

Victor Seguin, AFC: I met Héléna Klotz in 2011, when she was making her medium-length film Atomic Age. I was leaving school and came to lend a hand as an electrician to see how her cinematographer Hélène Louvart [AFC] worked. I found her again in 2021, when she was looking for a cinematographer for her short film Amour Océan. It was a sort of preamble to La Vénus d'argent. Héléna was looking for a team who could follow her on her feature film project, and she had heard of me and appreciated my work. This first collaboration turned out to be very pleasant and creative, and I was very happy to be able to continue with it.

Behind the scenes of La Vénus d'argent (aka Spirit of Ecstasy)

How would you describe the movie’s look?

Seguin: La Vénus d'argent juxtaposes two worlds, that of Jeanne’s family, where she’s a young woman who lives in a police barracks, and that of high finance, in which she tries to find her place as a trader. In this latter universe, Jeanne appears cold and determined, ambitious, hidden behind a mask of mathematical logic. In the barracks, nature catches up with her, between the attentive tenderness of her family and the emotion caused by the return of an upsetting first love.

We wanted to visually characterize these two lives of Jeanne by using freer framing in the barracks and more strict and composed framing in the financial world, and with warmer or colder lights and the use of two series of lenses from Panavision. On the one hand, the Super 35 PVintage series, with its softness, beautiful bokeh and interesting aberrations which we increased by using a sensor area larger than Super 35 on the Venice, gives an organic aspect to the living space in the barracks. On the other hand, the large-format Primo 70 series are more modern, defined and without aberrations, and we used those to accompany Jeanne's mask of rigor, her ‘banker's shell.’ She passes from one universe to another as in a waking dream, lulled by the wonderful music of composer Ulysse Klotz, Héléna's brother.

Were there any visual references that helped inspire your approach to the movie’s visual language?

Seguin: As the daughter of filmmakers, Héléna told me she grew up with Bresson rather than with Spielberg productions. But today she also willingly embraces her taste for the very visual worlds of major American film or series productions. And these two types of references coexisted throughout our preparation as we sought the rigor or freedom of a frame, the generous use of colors or shooting techniques, here or there.

Behind the scenes of La Vénus d'argent (aka Spirit of Ecstasy)

What brought you to Panavision for this project?

Seguin: I have been working with Panavision for a long time. I love the unique visual universe that their optics offer. I know that I can find this consistency in Panavision’s choice of optics and at the same time a variety of tools that can support all projects.

What inspired you to become a cinematographer, and what inspires you today?

Seguin: My desire to become a cinematographer comes from a practice in the visual arts and a taste for manufacturing as much as for design. The variety of tools available today for filming and post production and their simplicity allows cinematographers a more artisanal approach, which I like. I find the visual richness of films and series today exciting.

Behind the scenes of La Vénus d'argent (aka Spirit of Ecstasy)

Photos by Carole Bethuel and Nicolas Sanchez. All images courtesy of Les Films du Bélier.

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