Jjust imagine the course. “I want to make my debut film about a girl who falls in love with a fun fair. That is it. “But no matter how unlikely it may seem, Zoé Wittock was not only Jumbo bankrolled, the film was also shown at Sundance. And it’s just as weird and rather richer than you might have expected.
Jumbo tells the story of Jeanne, played by Noémie Merlant, who lives with her pretty single mother near an amusement park and also has a job there as a cleaning staff. One night while spitting the cleaning of the knobs on a new amusement machine, she realizes that she is in love with “him”. And then begins a dizzying rites-of-passage story with the intoxication of flashing lights and the sensuality of oil that stands for the dopamine speeds and the tentative bodily exchange of first love.
Wittock, daughter of a Belgian diplomat who spent his early childhood in the Democratic Republic of Congo, took the film’s title from the Swahili word “fabric”, Which means hello. She was inspired to do so after reading about a woman who “married” the Eiffel Tower. “I was like, ‘OK, that’s crazy.’ But it just stuck with me a little bit. Every time I mentioned it to friends after that, it would just create so many debates and interactions and would divide people so strongly that I felt I had to meet this woman. ”
When she finally asked Erika Eiffel, she seemed completely normal. “I was expecting someone who was a freak or on the edge of society, but she was really warm, soft, welcoming and almost banal, which made me wonder how she could have made such extreme choices and be so strong and so open about them. I started writing this story because I needed to understand her. ”
Today, objectophilia and “objectum sexual” people are relatively well known. Individuals have spoken publicly about their infatuation with the Berlin Wall or the Golden Gate Bridge, while last year a teacher in Moscow “married” his briefcase. Eiffel has even set up a support group, OS Internationale. But in 2012, when Wittock began researching the subject, it was so little understood that she was rejected by the first psychologists she consulted.
Some academics believe that there is a link between OS and autism. Jumbo suggests early on that Jeanne’s problems were due to her father’s disappearance from her family, but at its core this is a story of getting old that allows you to sympathize with the nervous excitement of Jeanne’s mother (Emmanuelle Bercot) while sweeping you dizzy into its glamorous nocturnal orbit. Compared to the supervisor trying in vain to create a relationship with Jeanne, Jumbo is a bit virile with his pulsating lights and his crushing arms. There is even a King Kong moment where he “saves” Jeanne from a cruel end by nestling her in an inverted “hand”.
Casting Jumbo was not easy. After exploring theme parks around the world, Wittock tracks the perfect trip in France. “We chose this one,” she says, “because he was in perfect shape. He was big and impressive, but not great, which would have made him really hard to film with people. ”
So how literally should we take the movie? “I would not be able to quantify how much of a metaphor there is,” Wittock says, “because it really is up to the person watching the film. I wanted to keep one foot in reality and the other in imagination. The metaphorical aspect is that it is a romantic story comparable to romantic stories where people do not find tolerance because of how different they are, although this is more extreme. ”
Has Erika Eiffel seen the film? “Yes, she has,” says Wittock, who discovered that Eiffel lived in Berlin, invited her to see it at the Berlinale Film Festival. “It was just before Covid hit, and there were 1,000 people watching the film, so she discovered it along with everyone else in the crowd. It was a very stressful moment because I was afraid she might be offended. There are times when you can laugh in the movie and I was afraid she would take it too personally. But she was very emotionally involved in it. In the end, she cried. ”
Ultimately, Wittock says, it’s the story of an outsider – something her own controversial childhood made her all too familiar with. “I hate putting people in boxes,” she says. “I will always break these boxes. To me, it’s just a romantic story. I understand that it’s weird. But what can I say? No damage has been done. I really can not be the one who decides to marginalize someone like Jeanne for their choice. They are their own people. It’s up to them. ”