Zoé Wittock’s feature film Jumbo tells the story of Jeanne, a young woman who creates an affectionate love affair with a machine ride called Jumbo and the conflict this attraction causes between Jeanne, played by Noémie Merlant and her mother, played by Emmanuelle Bercot. Zoé Wittock premiered her first feature film at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. I met up with Zoé Wittock and Noémie Merlant at the Berlin Film Festival, where the film had it’s European Premiere to discuss the theme of the film, which includes Objectum Sexuality.
Objectum sexuality is a sexual orientation, in which an individual experiences emotional, romantic and/or sexual feelings towards inanimate objects. Though Objectum Sexuality has been linked with autism and synaesthesia, in Jumbo, Zoé Wittock successfully delivers a deeper look into the connection between woman and her love for a machine.
For those who had the opportunity to see Noémie Merlant’s performance in Jumbo during the Sundance Film Festival or at Berlinale, witnessed an honest performance of an introvert who’s sincerity and embrace of romantic love for an inanimate object is challenged by those closest to her.
Zoé Wittock: “The film is about a mother and a daughter, they are living together and they have a very fusional relationship and the daughter who is very introvert, works at a fun fair park, an amusement park at night and one night one of the machines kind of come to life and she starts a relationship with that machine which she will decide to share with her mother, who is obviously not very happy about it. So the movie is about that relationship with that machine and how does the family, the mother respond to it.”
Zoé Wittock: “It’s interesting because you might have a tendency to study objectum-sexuality on a spectrum of mental illness potentially and kind of like a doctor looking at a patient, and the audience being that curious, like she is the freak and we are the curious people looking at it, keeps a distance. But when you are treating it like a love story and you are trying to get the audience to engage with that person, getting the audience to engage with the trying to understand them really, and not just understand them intellectually, but also emotionally then it becomes probably more challenging for the audience but at the same so much more rewarding when you are there at the end of the film, you might think wow, I actually so when you are their at the end of the film she believes so much that she is in love with that ride when she, when you are playing Jeanne is in love with that ride if I was going to do the we need it to explore that authenticity and the power of belief that I was talking about before.”
Zoé Wittock: “My advice would be for young filmmakers generally because I think if at the time when I started film, if people made me realize that I was a female filmmaker and that it might be harder because of that, then maybe I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it. So I kind of want to generalize it. It’s just about making movies, and if you want to do that and you are passionate, keep on to that passion and keep on going straight like a bulldozer. If you doubt, just keep going. And it’s about faith. It’s about listening to yourself. And just really believing that you can make it. And if you believe in yourself, then other people at some point will start believing in you. That power is so strong. It’s the power of belief, which the movie is actually talking about. When you believe in something, it is real to you, and if you are strong enough, you can make it real to the people around you.”
Noémie Merlant: Well, it is nice. She really likes to go deep in the work, to dig deeper in the character and the work. And It is a mix of work and joyful work you know? And always go further. And that is what I like. The challenge, and the work, I love that. And she is like that also, so we have a big complicity of that.
Zoé Wittock: Yeah, it was fun, she can take it anywhere. As a director, it is so much fun working with her because you are like “Oh take it left” “okay!” “Take it right” “okay!” and she is willing to take a risk on it. She takes a chance on things and it is also about trust. Because, then she is unafraid of taking that risk, and just going for it. To take on a role like that, you have to be courageous in some way, you know?