He has always been focused on experimentation and concerned about his independence: with Unsane, entirely turned to the iPhone, Steven Soderbergh seems ready to open a new chapter in his career and prove that smartphones can be more than gadgets for the 7th art.

“It’s a fascinating time to make movies. I would have liked to have such an object when I was 15 years old, “he said Wednesday at the Berlin Film Festival, where his new film is presented out of competition.

The director of Ocean’s Eleven is not the first to shoot a film this way: Sean Baker ( The Florida Project ) filmed the trip of two transsexuals in Tangerine (2015) with his phone, for budget reasons.

And by the end of 2017, Michel Gondry had directed a short film, Détour, commissioned by Apple. He then took the opportunity to distil filming tips.

But Soderbergh is the first to be convinced to the point of wanting to start again: he starts next week a shoot in these same conditions.

“It gives you a degree of control quite rewarding,” said the 55-year-old American. Benefits include a short shoot (two weeks), a narrower team, and a short time between rehearsals and the time to film.

This process “allowed us to remain soaked in our characters, with fewer restrictions than on a set of filming,” added press conference Josh Leonard, one of the actors of the film. “We are forced to be always in action”.

Soderbergh recognizes, however, a few flats: the vibrations to which the phone is sensitive and the depth of field that needs to be reworked.

But on the whole, it does not dry up praise on this new camera nor on the quality of the image. “The film had to be visceral. We are so used to a certain aesthetic (with images taken on the phone) that there is an intimacy between the viewer and the image, “he explains.

On screen, hard for a secular eye to say that this Hitchcockian thriller was shot at the iPhone. With its dark light inside and a grain sometimes typical of spy cameras, the film is particularly scary.

Unsane follows in the footsteps of Sawyer Valentini (played by Claire Foy, Queen Elizabeth of The Crown series ). 

Hunted woman

Recently settled in Pennsylvania, the young woman living alone will find herself, almost in spite of herself, locked up in a psychiatric institution.

There she meets a man she accuses of tracking her down. Is it in his head (as the title suggests)? Or does she say true?

This portrait of a hunted woman echoes the news, with the debates on consent in men / women relationships, brought to light since the Weinstein affair in Hollywood.

The film is also an uncompromising picture of psychiatry and the health insurance business in the United States, a theme already discussed in   Soderbergh’s Side Effects in 2013, before he announced his retirement.

The director has since changed his mind, but has devoted himself in recent years to series ( The Knick , on the beginning of surgery with Clive Owen and more recently  Mosaic , with Sharon Stone).

“I got a taste for the realization thanks to  The Knick “. I think I confused my frustration with the film community with my work as a director. As soon as I recovered, I decided to continue, “he said.

For the man who won the Palme d’Or for 26 years , lees and videotape  (1989) has long sought to break free from the logic of the studios and has often alternated studio films and more experimental works.

In the first category is the  Ocean’s series , with big stars like George Clooney, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts.

Soderbergh’s lesser-public facet is expressed in such films as  Kafka  (1991),  Schizopolis (1996),  Full Frontal  (2002), shot in digital camera, and  Solaris  (2002), based on a Polish science fiction novel already adopted by the Russian Andrey Tarkovsky in 1972.

Unsane is  scheduled to be released on screens in North America on March 23rd.