Interview with Patrick Bossé and Antonio Pierre de Almeida.
Before being a Quebec independent film, Anatomy is first and foremost a story of friendship and love, one that connects the two actors and pillars of Quebecois theatre, Gilles Pelletier and Françoise Graton, to director and screenwriter Patrick Bossé and his cinematographer Antonio Pierre de Almeida. Seven years after shooting, we invited them to reflect on their project and collaboration—via videoconference, of course.
What does Anatomy mean to you after all these years? Has the meaning changed over time?
Antonio: The film still resonates with me and will probably always do so. The intimacy we shared goes beyond the body’s limits and becomes concrete—through the film we simply keep exploring together with the people we love and loved.
Patrick: It still rattles me, even after all these years, to revisit this project. It’s not a usual project; it’s a relationship of friendship and trust built over years, and the film is a testimony to the overwhelming closeness and intimacy shared by the team. We wanted to bring to the screen what we had seen of the couple in reality, to make a love I found so pure last—thanks to the film, it endures. They put everything they had in it.
Did the film affect your outlook on old age or death?
A: Yes, it confronted me with life and love—a love that lasts until the end and even beyond! It’s anecdotal, but my father died on the day the film was screened in Montreal for the firm time (if not, one of the first times), on March 14, 2014. I remember having a twinge in my heart at the thought.
P: Before Anatomy, I directed a documentary called Un nouveau monde, in which I tried to portray something similar. I followed an elderly couple who was making the transition from home to retirement home. Yet something was missing at that time, and Anatomy allowed me to do better and get at something more personal. Anatomy uses fiction to explore reality and real feelings. I’ve always been close to my grandparents and parents, and I’ve explored these relationships in the film. At one point, you can clearly see Gilles’ scar (it’s his pacemaker), and I remember being struck by that image because it reminded me of my grandfather who’d also had heart issues. I saw a beautiful parallel there. Time has created many connections between the film and our personal lives.
Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you wish you’d have done differently?
A: I have no regrets, in all honesty! I wouldn’t do anything differently—I’d even like to do it again! Something similar anyway… I remember the rehearsals; it was like practising choreography. The simplicity with which it was done still resonates with me. There’s no artifice; Patrick was like a blacksmith striving to find the simplest and most essential expression of what he was trying to convey. There aren’t just images; even if there’s no dialogue, there are sounds! Heartbeats, breaths.
P: It’s an extremely personal project, for Gilles and Françoise of course, but for me as well—I’m making it and taking a stand in it. After shooting, I thought a lot about Françoise’s place in the film. I would’ve liked to add a gesture or action initiated by her, but it was difficult to do so in post-production with the material we had.
In one word, how would you describe your relationship?
A: I want to say complementary, but that’s not the right word… I have to think about it. We’re opposites, but complementary—we can meet each other in the middle and move forward together. Can I think about it a bit more and let Patrick answer? (laughter)
P: I’d say symbiosis—we have our own bubble, much like Gilles and Françoise. Antonio and I have a cinematic bubble. We are each other’s mirror, and it goes beyond technique. Anatomy is the first great achievement of our work relationship, a turning point. The project was custom-made for our collaboration; it’s a happy mix of what we were able to do and what we wanted to explore.
A: I have a word I want to use, but I know Patrick doesn’t like it… (laughter) it’s organic. Not the connotation it has nowadays—by organic, I mean something essential, something that serves a purpose, that evolves. Our relationship is fueled and can change, but it remains useful. It’s almost fusional, an exchange that creates something greater than the sum of its parts. As Patrick said, it’s a bubble— a look is all we need to understand the other, and we know our respective limits. Patrick is a reserved person who likes to observe; his voice is considered and solid, and Anatomy is proof of his sensitivity and willingness to observe and narrate. He helps to ground me and brings me back to the essential.
P: Actually, I have a question for Antonio! (laughter) Do you feel like there’s something selfish about this project? There was something unsaid, that Françoise would outlive Gilles and be with him and take care of him until the end… but then the opposite happened. It’s a kind of sweet revenge because even though they’re both gone, they haven’t really left; they’re still with us, and the film is one more proof of that. I wanted to encapsulate and retain a trace. I just welcomed my second child and I want to strive to create and preserve what I find important, so that they can have access to it.
A: It’s a good question, but no, I don’t think it’s selfish. A movie is like a time machine. To talk about the universal, you have to talk about yourself, and the story of Françoise and Gilles was a beautiful doorway to that. It wasn’t just their story anymore, the whole team had a little piece of it—we all had some selfishness in it. The film is more than the sum of all our selfishness.
P: I wonder why they did it. Why did they take that risk? In spite of their incredible careers, they had never done anything like that, which made them face themselves to such a degree. We’ll never know… If I have one regret then, it’s that Françoise left us too early. It makes me realize that Anatomy, Gilles and Françoise’s bubble, is really what I aspire to. We spent a few months in lockdown, and I realize that I recreated this bubble with my child and wife (and our second child now, a girl that we named Françoise in Mrs. Graton’s honour). A bubble in which I can be vulnerable with beauty but also with ugliness. We really are a couple of romantics, Antonio! (laughter)