Jean Denizot • Director
Venice Days 2013
For his first feature The Good Life, French director film Jean Denizot was inspired by a news story in France. This brought him to wonder what a “good life” might mean
Encounter on the Lido with the French director, selected for the Venice Days with his first feature The Good Life.
Cineuropa: What moved you in the news item that inspired the screenplay of The Good Life [+see also:
interview: Jean Denizot
Jean Denizot: I heard about the events that were named the Fortin Case at the end of the 2009 winter. I was surprised someone could disappear in France for ten years with two young children. When I heard these two children speaking on the radio, they seemed very well educated, they were defending their father with conviction and intelligence. I said to myself: they did not go to school for ten years and they express themselves perfectly: Incredible! This means the judge believes the father did his job as a father, a teacher. Obviously, it’s much more complicated than that and that’s why I wanted to tell this story since it is still a kidnapping. Very rapidly, I did not focus on the news stories and the details, but I used them as a starting point to tell something altogether different. Thus, my film starts where the news ends. In 2009, when the father was arrested and put on trial, the children were grown-up and worked, the family was already quite scattered. In my film, it is all about a new escape, with children who are already older. What does it mean to escape again, when you are a father, 40 years old and have children who are old enough to have their own lives? That’s what fascinated me. When a child is kidnapped by his father, he becomes one with his model. That idea immediately confused and interested me: were the children not happy during this kidnapping? But it is more complicated than that.
The story goes from drama to light. Why?
I did not want to do anything too dramatic even if the material is very much so because it is about a kidnapping, children taken away from their mother, a man on the run, at bay. Sometimes I wanted it to be lighter, for it to be full of humour, because that is the cinema I enjoy, that of Jean Renoir who systematically blends politics and comedy, drama and amusement. It can also be found in great American filmmakers such as John Ford who has this way of mixing tones and producing a demanding and friendly cinema.
How do you conceive the choice made by the father?
I will keep myself from having an opinion on the case. On the other hand, my film asks many questions, just like its title: what is the good life? Is it this life in nature, but under many constraints because it becomes an open-air prison? The father creates a sort of paradise on earth, but it is an artificial paradise, which cannot last forever and they all know it. It is a metaphor for childhood. When we are children, we have parents who take care of us, gives us all we need, and it is a world of pleasure, simple desire, and then one day we grow-up and things get a it more complicated, we have to work, earn a living... In any case, I think children need both their parents and that the father’s actions were very serious. But my story says something else.