ROME, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- French film star Isabelle Huppert thrilled cinema lovers during a Close Encounter with the audience at the Rome Film Festival on Saturday, where she answered questions about her artistic process and was given a lifetime achievement award.
Huppert, 65, is known for her ruthless portrayals of complex, anti-conformist, often twisted and tormented characters, and has worked with some of the greatest masters of Western cinema from the French New Wave to the present day.
Last year she won a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for her performance in Elle (She), a psychological thriller by Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, director of Basic Instinct, Total Recall, and RoboCop, in which she plays a successful businesswoman who gets violently raped by a masked intruder, then hunts down her assailant in a cat-and-mouse game that has unexpected consequences.
Asked how she and Verhoeven prepared for the shoot, Huppert answered that they didn't really talk much about the character, because there was no way to describe her inner motivations.
"This is the sort of movie that eludes psychology," Huppert said. "Either you understand her (the main character) from the inside, or you can't explain why she behaves the way she does."
Huppert said that Elle is not just about the protagonist's feelings or her journey but about the atmosphere of her fictional life -- the house where she lives, the clothes she wears and the people who surround her.
"My theory is that the answer to all the questions we have about (that character) lies in the staging," she said.
"What I discovered with Verhoeven is that staging is actually the art of movement, and he is a master at that. It's hard to explain, but it has to do with how the actor moves and how the camera moves around the actor."
Speaking of her work in general, the celebrated actress said there is no such thing as "preparing for a role" and that other than getting up early in the morning, she doesn't have a specific practice.
"One cannot prepare for an event which by definition, is a part of the unknown," said Huppert, who has won over 100 awards across the globe including a Silver Bear in Berlin, two Best Actress awards in Cannes, and two Volpi Cups in Venice.
"Film is immediate -- it happens when it happens. It's not something you can imagine beforehand," said the actress.
She said that reading the script, memorizing the lines, trying on the costume, makes an image of the character arise in her mind, but how that character will "live" cannot be rehearsed "because the camera exerts an extraordinary power, which cannot be invented before starting."
To Huppert, acting is "a question of concentration," which she described as something "almost sacred" that upholds the connection between the actor and the camera.
Huppert also said she doesn't have to like a character in order to play her.
"I have nothing to do with those women," she said. "It's like meeting a stranger in the street: you are far away and close at the same time, but this proximity doesn't mean you have to love them -- you just have to be willing to understand them."
The Rome Film Festival runs through Oct. 28.