CANNES 2023 Directors’ Fortnight
Cédric Kahn • Director of The Goldman Case
"The viewer needed to be placed in the position of a jury member"
- CANNES 2023: The French director discusses his fascinating courtroom drama about Pierre Goldman
The Goldman Case [+see also:
interview: Cédric Kahn
film profile], Cédric Kahn’s 13th feature film, has opened the 55th Directors' Fortnight (as part of the 76th Cannes Film Festival), marking the director’s return to the parallel section where he had presented his second feature, Too Much Happiness, in 1994.
Cineuropa: Why did you take an interest in Pierre Goldman, a personality full of contradictions, to the point where you decided to make him the central character in your new films?
Cédric Kahn: There is a rockstar side to him, almost punk even. He is very transgressive, provocative, funny, seductive, and you can see that he plays on all these levels to get other people’s approval. He’s a showman, and that’s where the antagonism with his lawyer Georges Kiejman comes from. I first discovered him with Dim memories of a Polish Jew born in France, the book he wrote to plead his innocence while in prison in between his two trials. He was furious to have been sentenced in the first place. Because he was convinced that he was his own best lawyer and was a real dialectician, he was making arguments that he believed to be foolproof and he was taking over his own defence. But as soon as I was reading his book, I found that it contained a lot of grey areas, and that this defence was both very brilliant, and very crazy.
To what degree did you stay faithful to the reality of the trial?
We were quite methodical with Nathalie Hertzberg, who wrote the script with me. First, we reconstructed the structure of the trial based on newspaper articles, checking them against one another to be as precise as possible. Then, we reconstructed the drama of the trial by putting the testimonies in the order that we felt was the most pertinent. But we didn’t forbid ourselves anything either, and we inserted elements that we exterior to the trial but that we found interesting. We tried to be as exhaustive as possible. But we also needed the viewers to follow the trial like an investigation. It’s an immersive experience, the viewer needed to be placed in the position of a jury member who’d have a maximum of information to form their own conviction. Like an internal debate about the fact that conviction and point of view change with every new word spoken.
This trial is also the reflection of an era, with its revolutionary utopias, racism in the police, etc.m within a very tense climate of ideological confrontation.
There are many topics, such as the antagonism between Kiejman and Goldman, but also indeed this mythology of the 1970s and its revolutionary spirit, though it’s already too late for that in the film: Che Guevara is dead and all these revolutionary movements really peaked in the late 1960s. But it is a time when there remains a very strong left-wing utopia and this is what the mythology plays on, this is how Goldman rallies the left-wing intelligentsia behind him. And beyond the case, the trial maps out a sociology that looks a lot like the France of today: on one side a radicalised left, on the other a very right-wing right, the province against the elites, the people against the intelligentsia.
From what angle did you want to address the question of Jewishness?
Goldman and Kiejman are both in their own way children of the Shoah. Kiejman is the resilient Jew who has transformed this into strength and ambition. Goldman, meanwhile, is the cursed Jew who is always in trouble: he has integrated a tragic destiny. He has heroised and idealised his parents’ history. Deep down, he would like to be with them, but he doesn’t manage. He says it, in fact, and it’s quite beautiful and moving. There are moments where he is like a little boy and you can feel that he is still looking for a meaning to his life.
What does this film represent for you, in your already long and rich career?
What I find interesting about accumulated experience, it’s to be able to acquire more and more freedom and to try things. It’s a real struggle, but I try from film to film to be more and more radical, to go as far as possible with an idea. It’s a make-or-break strategy, I have to accept its risks. If you become obsessed with succeeding on everything, you succeed on nothing. I try to return to the essence of what it is that I love about making cinema, and filming unique faces is one of the things that pleases me, like having Arthur Harari in the role of Kiejman, for example. What I find interesting about people who are not very well known, it’s that add a lot of credibility.
(Translated from French)
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