Kilian Riedhof • Director of You Will Not Have My Hate
"Three countries made this film as a European answer to terrorism. We have to stay together"
by Marta Bałaga
- In his film, the German director celebrates love
Antoine Leiris was at home with his son when his wife Hélène was killed at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris. Desperate, he took to social media, writing a post that reflected what many felt at that time, stating her killers “won’t have his hate.” Now, Kilian Riedhof tells his story again, in his film You Will Not Have My Hate [+see also:
interview: Kilian Riedhof
film profile], which premiered in the Piazza Grande section at the Locarno Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Recently, I have seen a couple of films trying to deal with the Bataclan tragedy. It seems that people are ready to address it now, but how long did it take you to get there?
Kilian Riedhof: When I read about Antoine, I was overwhelmed. I have a daughter who is nearly the same age [as his child]. It’s close to all of us, as you can easily imagine the situation when a wife leaves in the evening and you put your kid to bed, not expecting anything bad to happen. But you are right – it’s a very specific topic, especially in France, where almost everyone in Paris has a memory connected to it. Some were supposed to go there, others knew the people that did. I didn’t want to "dramatise" the story, didn’t want it to be too on the nose. I saw my role as a compassionate friend, let’s say.
The decision not to show the actual attack feels smart – I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on his grief afterwards.
Antoine asked us not to show it. It’s a radical perspective but it was important. Otherwise, it would be too conventional. To focus on his process of grievance, on him fighting these demons, we had to show his inner fight. We had to show how he overcomes hate.
You seem to suggest that the media frenzy around his post also served as a way to postpone things? Like preparing his wife’s funeral, acknowledging this loss.
It’s not a part of the book, but we found out that he started to appear in the media three days after the attack. It seemed early, but after a while you get a better sense of why he would do it. I am always working with a psychiatrist when I am preparing for directing and we talked about that, too. We realised it was helping him to survive these first few days, to keep the memory of his wife alive. But it couldn’t last forever.
It's funny, the things we do to survive. But perhaps that’s why your film feels universal – once you take away the attack, it’s a story about a father trying to be there for his child.
This was an essential part of the story – his relationship with his son. He got distracted by grief, but in order to find new hope, he had to go back to that love. Antoine described it as “diving into fatherhood.” If we talk about overcoming hatred, then how do we do it? We have to love even more intensely.
These days it feels like people are encouraged to hate instead. Did you talk to Antoine about his words? Did they change anything?
The post came out spontaneously, that’s what he told us and I believe it. For many, it was very thought-provoking. When the film will come out, we are bound to get some mixed reactions again – especially from the right.
It’s easy to give in to hate, especially on social media, and not be responsible for what you say. That’s why his message is so important now. You can’t just say you have to fight hate with love. I mean, it’s true, but how do we go about it? We have to be aware of the relationship with our kids and our partners, of our culture, what we love about it and what we want to defend. For many years we took our lives for granted, but it’s being attacked now. We have to be aware of who we are to defend ourselves.
There is a moment in the film when he loses it. But for the most part, it’s less of a scream and more of a whisper. Was it harder, showing someone who keeps it all in?
What I wanted to avoid was the story about grief where the protagonist is always crying. It’s about overcoming hatred – it’s not about being sad. For the longest time, Antoine wasn’t allowing himself to feel this pain, to let go. Which is very human. We had to listen to our story, however, and this one was about a father and his son. It wasn’t about showing off.
People feel “protective” of their tragedies. They are suspicious when an outsider wants to talk about them, I think.
We had great French co-producers and we talked about it a lot. I understood these fears, because this tragedy is still very present in France. You don’t have to explain it to people – you just need to be respectful. As a father, as a western citizen living in Europe, I feel I have the right to tell this story – we all share the experience of being under attack. Three countries, France, Germany and Belgium, made this film together as a European answer to terrorism. What could be better? We have to stay together.
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