Emmanuel Marre and Julie Lecoustre's Zero Fucks Given is showing exclusively on MUBI in most countries starting March 30, 2022 in the series Viewfinder.
“Despite its seeming mundanity, the ritual of flying remains indelibly linked, even in secular times, to the momentous themes of existence. We have heard about too many ascensions, too many voices from heaven, too many airborne angels and saints to ever be able to regard the business of flight from an entirely pedestrian perspective, as we might, say, the act of travelling by train. Notions of the divine, the eternal and the significant accompany us covertly on to our craft, haunting the reading aloud of the safety instructions, the weather announcements made by our captains and, most particularly, our lofty views of the gentle curvature of the earth.”
—A Week at the Airport : A Heathrow Diary by Alain de Botton
Zero Fucks Given started with an image. On a Ryanair flight to Majorca, Emmanuel was sitting in the first row just opposite the flight attendants on their jumpseats. Nowadays, cabin crew working for certain low-cost airlines are no longer able to pull the curtain that used to give them a little privacy. During takeoff, in the semi-darkness, one of them seemed preoccupied, profoundly sad and lost in her private thoughts. You could tell that that day she was going through a particularly painful time in her life. And then the alarm bell sounded, the first ding meaning the flight attendants can stand up and start the on-board service. She unfastened her seatbelt and cleared her face of all emotion, fixing a perfect, professional smile in place. Service could now commence.
Zero Fucks Given is an attempt at relaying a plausible story. It is a plausible glimpse into the life of this flight attendant, of whom we will never know anything else. The Cassandra character is an attempt to make her flesh and blood. We wondered what she had left on the ground, and what her days and nights were like.
In order to achieve this, the film unrolls and writes itself while it is being made. We have a screenplay but it is more like a compass or a guide, giving its direction, rather than a script to be followed to the letter.Our way of working is hands-on, community-led and sometimes botched. This way of working is deliberate, meaning the real and the unexpected can be welcomed. We work on-set with a technical team of five people, in natural light, and don’t block off areas as fictional territory; indeed, we approach areas as one does in a documentary (functioning airports, real parties in Lazarote, a real estate agent in Belgium, et cetera). The paradox in this is that keeping the approach of a documentary requires an immense amount of preparation. We had to set up our own airline, WING, from A to Z, covering every detail, so that we could film on real planes, in flight and on the ground, and, for example, offering passengers a free return flight to Barcelona.
A very large proportion of the actors doing a job on screen do that job in real life too: for example, cabin crew, the base supervisor, the trainer, and trade union reps. For us there are no professional or non-professional actors. On-screen, everyone is on an equal footing as a “performer.” Each rôle is, first and foremost, an encounter. Alexandre Perrier (Jean) is one of the film’s producers. Mara Taquin (Melissa) is an actor. Tamara Al Saadi (Dounia) and Arthur Egloff (Arthur) are theater directors. We looked for a real flight attendant for a long time or an “unknown” to play the role of Cassandra. We met Adèle Exarchopoulos late in the day, and we recognized immediately that she embodied the twin aspects of the Cassandra character: the disparity between what she reveals to the public and what she keeps to herself. The way that she can switch from one emotion to another in the blink of an eye reminded us of the original scene observed by Emmanuel, while she breathed her appetite for life, her vivid gaze and thoroughly modern solitude into the melancholy of Cassandra. On the one hand, Adèle was a conduit, enabling us to bring to life all the tales that over a hundred cabin crew had told us. But she went further, making Cassandra her own, a Cassandra who was at once more mysterious and more vivacious than we had imagined. And both in front of and behind the camera is the quest for that extremely European, modern solitude that is at the heart of the film.
For us, Zero Fucks Given is primarily a film about being attached and detached. What we are trying to detach ourselves from, and what we are deeply attached to. How to avoid diversionary tactics and, instead, face up to things, and to reconnect when we have wanted to disconnect, gradually moving away from an internal crash. The film tries to capture a whole landscape of emotions, and this is a small, and yet huge, internal shift.