Flower Girl

By Michael Giltz

Originally published on Advocate.com April 03 2008 11:00 PM ET

Writer and
director Celine Sciamma makes it look easy. Her first
directorial effort, Water Lilies -- a delicate
but sharp-edged look at three 15-year-old girls exploring
their sexuality against the backdrop of synchronized
swimming -- debuted at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival
to rave reviews.

Just two days
later, with the world at her feet and boundless new
possibilities, Sciamma came out with casual aplomb to The
Advocate.
Now her film is coming to America,
giving U.S. moviegoers a chance to see her work. Sciamma
always thought of herself as basically a writer, but
apparently that’s going to have to change.

“I really
enjoyed doing the movie,” admits the 27-year-old.
“I felt like I was at home. So I can’t
say I am not a director. But in terms of career and
what is your job, what is your craft? I really enjoy writing
too. The future will tell.”

Water Lilies looks at three very different
girls: Anne, a heavyset girl exceptionally eager to lose her
virginity; Floriane, a sexy girl who loves to flirt
but is a little overwhelmed by the effect her body has
on boys and older men; and our heroine, Marie (a gawky
Pauline Acquart), who is friends with Anne but obsessed with
Floriane as only a teenager on hormones can be. In one
hilariously driven scene, Anne is so besotted with
Floriane that Anne steals her trash and even eats
scraps of food that Floriane has thrown away.

In an unexpected
way, Sciamma is using homosexuality to get viewers to
see the story of first love with fresh eyes.

“Lesbianism is a subject that is really at the
beginning of its presentation in France, in movies and
with girls at that age,” says Sciamma.
“It really tells a lot about how girls interact at
that age, whether they’re going to be gay or
straight or whatever.

“It’s really rare where you go to the movies
and you have a ‘first kiss’ scene where
you’re really into it because you’ve seen it a
thousand times before. I thought [the gay angle] could
bring another emotion and put the audience into a kind
of new pure feeling about this.”

Like so many
French films, Water Lilies treats adolescence
with the same seriousness as the teenagers themselves.
Given the discreet but implicitly erotic scenes in the
movie, casting was key.

“They’re very, very different from their
characters,” says Sciamma about her three
leads. “I wanted girls who were the age of the part.
I wanted very [specific] looks. These girls, they
could be in American Pie, referring to the
stereotypes they fit into.

“This is a
blond, this one is chubby, and so on. I also wanted them to
be in charge of the parts and be good at them. I got
very lucky. I’ve been hunting for them a long
time.”

Perhaps the most
promising of all is Acquart as Marie. Acquart has an
awkward intensity and lovely lips; part of the irony of her
misfit status is that we can see what a gorgeous woman
this girl will become. Naturally, that was
intentional.

“I wanted
her to be like…a promise,” says Sciamma.
“I didn’t want a butchy young girl. The
movie is talking about what it’s like to become a
girl, in the Simone de Beauvoir way of speaking. I wanted
you to see she was going to be a pretty girl.”