A first feature film is a filmmaker’s best opportunity to make his or her mark, to fully assert themselves as a cinematic voice to be reckoned with. Surely Eva Husson’s lurid and striking film Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story), a chronicle of adolescent sexuality in which high school students cavort in drug-fuelled orgies in a friend’s empty house, is enough to grab attention.
Set in the sunny and sleepy south-west of France, Bang Gang is the story of a group of friends’ efforts to break away from the mundanity of everyday middle class life. Through extensive sexual self-exploration and hard drugs, all bourgeois pretence is lost in a sea of gyrating adolescent bodies, set to the tune of bounding club music. We caught up with Eva Husson at the Hazlitt Hotel in Soho to talk Bang Gang, and the wide-reaching social implications of her alluring film.
The sub-title of the film is ‘A Modern Love Story’. In what way do you consider your film to be modern?
I think at first I just wanted people to think about the modernity of social networks, and then I thought, ‘No – it doesn’t change anything about the love story at all. It’s just a different way of communicating.’ In the end, I think I just realised that it’s more in the tradition of modernism – after the Second World War, where they thought the world meant something and then it just collapsed into chaos, and they were trying to make sense of it all. The characters are all in their own little worlds as teenagers and they think they know what they like. At the end of the film, the character of Gabriel says that he felt the world was collapsing, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that when I finished Bang Gang, for my generation it was over and there was a very different picture. So I think it has to do with that and with it being at the end of an era and going through a period of self-exploration.
The characters all come from a very middle class milieu. Do you think that’s why they went so far in what they did?
Yes, because of boredom. They’re trying to feel alive and trying to explore things. Maybe kids from another background would have done something else. I come from a very heavy family history. My grandfather was a Spanish republican refugee who crossed the Pyrenees by foot. He enlisted when he was 16 and his brother murdered someone. You grow up with that history, but then you think, ‘Oh, I go to parties and I do drugs, and that’s just what we do.’ How did we get here? What is it that pushes us to think that that’s the highest form of living? But I do think that in the last 12 months everything has changed. You can feel it in the air. The way people engage with politics and their lot. Not just in Europe, let’s not fool ourselves.
How much of your own adolescence went into the writing of the film and the characters?
Well, I took very extreme events that didn’t happen to me or my friends. Funnily enough, I’ve never had an interest in group sex. It’s too much! That was actually a problem directing it on set, because there were just too many bodies and I was there in my trench coat! I talked about external events to talk about things that are very intimate. This tool of having an external event is handy when you don’t want to talk about yourself directly because you can mask everything and have enough on the screen but still not feel naked. The writing helped to untie some knots, and I think that has to do with me being incredibly anti-social and uncomfortable in groups. That’s what I talk about with the characters of George and Gabriel, because they’re very similar to me in different ways.
The story begins as a tale of girls chasing boys, which is something we don’t see very much in film. Was this something that came naturally in the writing process or was it a deliberate attempt to subvert the norm?
That brings us onto an interesting point. Storytelling has mainly been from the male gaze, so you get comfortable with that story told from the guy’s point of view. In real life, half of it happens that way, but there’s a whole other half that happens and is perceived differently. Personally, I’ve chased a lot of boys, and I’ve never understood why that isn’t the story that people tell. It wasn’t deliberate, it’s just the way I see the world. I think it’s important for us as women to take storytelling and show that there are different ways of perceiving the world and that there is a whole other way of seeing the same event. I’m very happy when I have teenage girls coming back and thanking me for showing what it is to be a teenage girl and the intensity of it, and how you don’t have to feel slut-shamed.
This is your first feature film, and you’ve chosen to tackle something which is both potentially controversial but also quite unknown, as adolescent culture is forever changing. How did you face this challenge?
Funnily enough, when I was writing the film, Instagram didn’t exist and Facebook had only just started. I had to figure out how important these things would be in the future for adolescent culture, which was quite fun. It was fascinating trying to work out what would still be relevant. There was a moment in an earlier draft where Snapchat had a big part, but Facebook, YouTube and Instagram were already enough for the film. I’ve always thought that high school is the best social media, in any case.
Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) is out in UK cinemas from June 17th, and you can read the Candid review here.
Words by George Washbourn