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CANNES 2018 Directors' Fortnight

Guillaume Nicloux • Director

"What I’m interested in is research and experience"

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- CANNES 2018: Guillaume Nicloux explains his film To The Ends Of The World, diving headlong into the jungle of deepest Indochina, as unveiled in the 50th Directors’ Fortnight

Guillaume Nicloux • Director

During the 50th edition of the Directors’ Fortnight at the 71st Cannes Film FestivalGuillaume Nicloux presented his film, To The Ends Of The World [+see also:
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trailer
interview: Guillaume Nicloux
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]
, a hypnotic war film which dives headlong into the Indochinese jungle of 1945 and shines a fierce light on the inner struggle between life and death.

Cineuropa: Why did you decide to make a film about the war in Indochina, with a particular focus on a very specific period in the conflict which hasn’t previously been shown in film?
Guillaume Nicloux : It was Sylvia Pialat who told me about the 9th March 1945, which I’d never heard of before. I’m taking about the day the Japanese massacred a host of French garrisons just when de Gaulle was looking to regain control of the colonies. I was intrigued by this historical event, and particularly by a character called Vandenberghe who was the first to adopt the same combat technique employed by the Viet Minh: no-rules fighting. I was lucky enough to get to talk to someone who actually knew him and had gone out with him on night missions: Raoul Coutard, who I hired as my director of photography for three of my films. This gave me a real, clear perspective on the subject, above and beyond the teachings of books which impart “official history” but which leave out the crucial other side of history: the human adventure as experienced by the people who were there at the time. The combination of the two sources gave me a solid base and allowed me to reimagine the war, thrusting the main character into the tug-of-war of vengeance and passionate love.

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Was the location – the jungle on this occasion - also a deciding factor for you, given that the settings for your previous films have tended to be out of the ordinary?
Geography and the idea of confinement, even if it’s within a natural space, have a huge impact on the way I tell a story and on the emotions that are triggered while I’m writing and obviously – and more importantly - while we’re making the film, setting up the equipment, directing, or introducing the character to his environment. With retrospect, I would say that The Nun [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Guillaume Nicloux
film profile
]
, The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq [+see also:
film review
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]
, Valley of Love [+see also:
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trailer
film profile
]
, The End [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 and To The Ends Of The World [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Guillaume Nicloux
film profile
]
all contain some form of imprisonment in which I try to find some kind of freedom. But this freedom isn’t easily found due to the constraint itself, whether we’re talking about the jungle, a garrison, a convent, a house… It’s as if these films all form part of an ongoing cycle of introspection which crosses the line between fiction and documentary. In this case, with the jungle and the garrison, the situation is one of confinement where the particular geography and climate force you to look inside yourself. I think the same principle applies in prison: you have to accept who you are in order to survive in a closed environment. I’ve always been fascinated by people who write in their prison cells, like Jean Genet or Edith Stein: a type of stripping back takes place, a facing-up to demons, and also an understanding that we can never truly feel alone inside of ourselves. The jungle is a place where we find ourselves having to face up to something both essential and vital, especially in times of war. Of all the stories I’ve absorbed, the one thing I’ve learned is that people never feel as alive as when they’re close to death. For soldiers, there’s a resurfacing of intensity. But this film is my imagining of a war that I’ve tried to reinvent in my own way to give the viewers a journey which isn’t a historical truth; I freed myself from that very early on, even though I did immerse myself in factual stories and visual impressions throughout the process.

To The Ends Of The World examines both actual physical war and the inner struggle that is common to all humankind.
I try to explore these zones of inner struggle. It’s a form of introspection mixed with a desire to tell stories and is a round-about way of talking about ourselves, about what haunts us.

You adopt a minimalist, hypnotic, sometimes dream-like approach to filming war, but you also show the harsher side of life as a solider. Why this dual approach?
I try not to plan ahead as far as possible so that our options are open when we actually come to make the film. What I am interested in is research and experience. I like to be open to possibilities, to finding a form that is right and fulfilling our deepest desire by capturing the moment, capturing the false truth of film because, ultimately, that’s what cinema is: an attempt to lie as sincerely as possible.

(Translated from French)

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