Sébastien Marnier • Director
"We were convinced that we were making a political film"
by Bénédicte Prot
- VENICE 2018: We interviewed French director Sebastien Marnier about his second feature film, School’s Out, screened in the Sconfini section at Venice Film Festival
We interviewed the French director Sébastien Marnier about his second feature film, School's Out [+see also:
film profile], screened in the Sconfini section at the 75th Venice Film Festival.
Cineuropa: What interested you about Christophe Dufossé's novel, School’s Out?
Sébastien Marnier: Even though I was fairly removed from it, Christophe Dufossé's novel inspired me to film the opacity of adolescence through the eyes of a 40-year-old man – about the same age as me. What interested me was finding a way of creating a mise en -scene that made viewers physically feel as though they were bumping into a brick wall, creating an immersive experience of sorts.
Do you agree with the idea that the film metamorphosises several times along the way?
I do, because Pierre decides to investigate these teenagers when he doesn't even know what he's looking for, or if they are even planning anything! As the film progresses, the more it rids itself of its "choral" aspect and focuses more on Pierre's obsession. It becomes more sinuous and the form, the editing, the sound work adapt to the different phases that Pierre goes through. I was interested in placing viewers inside Pierre's head and body, as if to hynpnotise, contaminate and poison them. So it's less of a thriller with plot twists – there aren’t many twists and turns – and more of a paranoid and obsessive trip that leads to a brutal awakening.
How did you describe this project to producers?
With Caroline Bonmarchand, we were aware that the film was difficult to label... and that's what excited us. French cinema is sometimes so timid that to involve actors like Laurent Lafitte, Emmanuelle Bercot or Pascal Greggory in such an atypical film, was quite a triumph. But above all, the actors, technical team and our financial partners had the belief that we were delivering an important message and that we were making a really political film. The ecological issue is at the heart of this film and unfortunately, the last few weeks only serve to confirm that we need to act now.
Pierre has an awareness that we really experience with him. The other adults in the film are very flippant.
This moment is a point at which the film shifts in meaning: it's the at which point the classic confrontation forks off towards a point of rupture. What I find interesting in this story is that Pierre is the only adult to transcend this border.
Indeed, the portrait I depict of the adult world is quite severe, but I am one myself: I am 40 years old, I was raised in a very strong political environment... and then time passes, and you begin to lose faith. I see it in my surroundings: we are aware but we’re not fighting anymore – not just because we feel let down by politicians... I think the world has become so scary that we take refuge in our little lives, trying to make them as pleasant as possible, as if we feel that we have to make the most of it now, before something disastrous happens. The childrens' parents are totally absent from my film and the adults put into perspective the violence and the extremism that the students are capable of. It was this tension, this ambiguity, that I had to explore: I wanted to ensure that we never know who the monsters really are, the adults or the children.
The film is extremely dark, from the suicide at the beginning to the epilogue.
Yes, it's a very dark film but I don’t think it's a desperate film. If the film had been naturalistic, it would have been unbearable, but creating a genre and thriller story allowed me to make a film that gasps for air, without appearing to be delivering moral lessons. The film states that we are still waiting for the disaster to happen so that "living together" and collective awareness can take shape again. But we need to work together before it’s too late!
(Translated from French)
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