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“I tried to make the most human film possible”

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Michel Hazanavicius • Director


- CANNES 2014: Cineuropa captured the remarks of Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius coming out of the screening of The Search

Michel Hazanavicius  • Director

Cineuropa captured the remarks of Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius coming out of the screening of The Search [+see also:
film review
film focus
Q&A: Michel Hazanavicius
film profile
, presented as a premiere in competition at the 67th Cannes Film Festival. On the one hand, the film features Bérénice Bejo as an onlooker of the collateral damage caused by the Chechnya conflict of 1999 and on the other, the outbreak of violence by a Russian military entangled in the vicious cycle of war.

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After the success of The Artist [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Michel Hazanavicius
film profile
, was it easier to make this film?
Michel Hazanavicius: I've never had the feeling of making simple films. My approach is always based on one or several desires. I wanted to tell this story, which had not been spoken about much, apart from by the journalists who dealt with it in the context of the news at the time in question. The story had a limited temporality before it would be forgotten. It was essential for me, therefore, to tell the tale in cinema so that it could remain unforgotten. By creating The Artist, I took a bit of a mad gamble by doing everything you shouldn't do as a director in order to create a film that turned out to be a commercial success. After that, I was faced with a lot of opportunities and I said to myself that it was the right time to embark on this ambitious, though necessary, path. 

What adapting work was involved when you revisited the American film of 1948?
The film is freely inspired by Fred Zinnemann's film. I complicated the story by adding in the element of the soldier who loses his humanity and I crossed it with the child who, in the original film, is an American soldier. Afterwards, it was really about adapting this story by including the ingredients of modern conflicts. The Chechnya conflict was a huge war which caused 80% civilian casualties, compared to 20% in World War I. For World War II, the ratio was 50/50. Between 1914 and 2014, the ratio between civilian and military casualties was inverted. Inevitably, these parameters provide a film which is very different to the original.

Did you conceive this film as a political message?
The film doesn't question anyone. I tried to make the most humane film possible with characters that have no political convictions. When it came to filming the story, we didn't know that it was going to repeat itself very soon with nearly the same stakeholders involved. All of this is undoubtedly very contemporary, and inevitably it concerns politics, particularly European politics.  

One of the sections of the film is very similar to Full Metal Jacket by Stanley Kubrick. Did this clear reference place added pressure on the filming?
Yes. I don't claim to be on a par with Kubrick, of course, but I watched Full Metal Jacket again before I did my own in order to gain some inspiration from his very complex creation and his way of handling it. The character in my film changes dramatically, as is also the case in Kubrick's film. That adds huge pressure, but today, you can't film anything without being in the shadow of a master who has already done it to perfection before you have. You need to dive in and make it your own; otherwise, you're doing nothing at all.

(Translated from French)

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