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CANNES 2022 Critics’ Week

Simon Rieth • Director of Summer Scars

“Power and fantasy are metaphors for the very strong relationship between love and hate”


- CANNES 2022: The young French filmmaker talks to us about his first feature film, which skillfully blends realism and fantasy

Simon Rieth • Director of Summer Scars
(© Xavier Lambours)

Summer Scars [+see also:
film review
interview: Simon Rieth
film profile
is Simon Rieth’s first feature. The film, which skillfully blends realism and fantasy in a story about two brothers linked by an extraordinary secret, premiered in the Critics' Week at the 75th Cannes Film Festival.

Cineuropa : You treat the topic of fraternal love through a film that often dips into fantasy. Where did this idea come from?
Simon Rieth : The starting point is very personal as I have a younger brother. We’re only one year apart in age, we’re extremely close, we used to go to Royan every Summer together. Then, I’m not sure how, I got the idea that in addition to being bonded by blood, there would be a ritual between two brothers which would lead them to kill each other. Power and fantasy are a metaphor for this strong relationship between love and hate that they share. It was a cinematic way of showing this very powerful brotherhood and of provoking an emotion.

What about the rather long prologue, almost twenty minutes long, of the two protagonists as children before we see them ten years later?

I didn’t want to have just a scene as an introduction to their childhood, I really wanted to tell a rather long moment in their lives. I wanted the audience to feel that they were settled in the story, before unexpectedly showing them the same characters much older. I also wanted this beginning to feel like memories, with elliptical writing and editing where we follow slices of life, the scenes not necessarily narratively linked. These slices of life are the emotional backbone for everything that will follow. It’s as if, when we find our two characters later on the boat, these are childhood memories they still have. At this point, they are 18-20 years old because it’s a pivotal moment of life in my opinion; we leave adolescence and transition into adulthood as many things about our history, family and the type of man we want to be, become locked in.

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How did you approach mixing genres, realism and fantasy?
I wanted to make an ultra-realist film on young people, to have something that is almost documentary like in terms of how they speak, the crucial moments like first loves and the first Summer parties. Then, in the middle, I wanted to inject this fantasy element which contaminates the story little by little. But there is a bit, which relies on a pact of belief with the viewer: so the first fantastic moments had to be very striking. That’s why the mastershot of the hanging, 35 minutes into the film, is when we understand what the film will be, something we couldn’t have guessed earlier. And that takes away any doubt from the viewer: we have to believe the characters and what is happening. It is important that the audience doesn’t think that the fantasy elements are just in the characters’ minds. This belief, this pact between two brothers, is also a pact that the film makes with the audience.

You cast two real-life brothers, which is quite rare. Why this decision?
I only film with non-professional actors and for all the young characters in the film, it was their first time on camera. We had a huge casting process. In the beginning, I tried to make pairs with people who looked alike but when I met Simon and Raymond Baur, it was a no-brainer. It immediately brought a bond, a love, which is very hard to play. There was also this whole relationship to their bodies because Simon and Raymond are high-level athletes and wushu champions. They have been training together since they were children and the sport they practise consists of doing impressive fight choreographies where they pretend to kill each other. The stars sort of aligned and I wrote the script so that the characters would be as close as possible to the actors.

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(Translated from French by Margaux Comte)

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