La Voix Humaine
Film commission for Boston Ballet

„As a multidisciplinary artist, working as choreographer and opera director, I am deeply interested in bringing my passion for dance and opera together; working with the body and the voice originates in the fundamentals of human existence—the breath. 

Film plays a recurring role in my creations as integral part of the dramaturgy; however, I had not worked as film director on a film which only exists in the digital realm, and which was not an adaptation of a staged production. It opened for me a new chapter in my art. 

Written by Jean Cocteau in 1928 and set to music by French composer Francis Poulenc in 1958, La Voix Humaine gives an insight into the heart and mind of a woman having a final phone conversation with her lover who is leaving her for someone else. In her isolation, solitude, desperation, and despair, she must deal with letting her beloved go and find a way to surrender into the big void.  

I chose to work with the original recording made in 1959 with soprano Denise Duval for whom Poulenc had written this one-act tragédie lyrique, as for me, she embodies a great dramatic intelligence that is full of eloquence and urgency still today.  

In this short film I wanted to meld my passion for dance and opera together. I was drawn to La Voix Humaine for its relevance today. Themes of isolation, letting go of a loved one, and farewell resonate with me and many of us in the times we live in.  

The protagonist, Elle, is a vulnerable yet strong woman. From my perspective as a female director, I wanted to enrich the many interpretations made by male directors through the decades, with a female gaze. I wanted to show her multi-faceted way of mourning as well as her hopes, desires, dreams, sensitivity, fears, and capacity for unconditional love. In her dreams, she can still feel the energy they shared together, how they embraced each other, how their smell merged together, how his breath felt on her skin, and how they made love to each other as if their passionate love affair is still on going. Yet she also feels abandoned, engulfed by a sad haunting darkness. She feels lost and gets painfully confronted by time passing by. 

This film, shot in 5K in collaboration with Director of Photography and Editor Ernesto Galan, was made entirely through digital connections from my home in Europe with the amazing artistic team and dancers of Boston Ballet, without ever meeting them live in person. Nevertheless, I felt truly connected during our long-distance process and although sharing our experience in a sad time reflected in the theme of La Voix Humaine, it was an extraordinary experience to be able to exchange and share our passion for art and feeling comforted by the boundless power of art.” 

—Nanine Linning