Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano • Directors of A Difficult Year
“When we live through major events, there are experts to explain where we’re at, and artists to interrogate the moment”
- Cineuropa met with the directing duo, who told us about their eighth feature, a grating comedy on a backdrop of end of the month and end of the world
Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano are back with their new film, A Difficult Year [+see also:
interview: Olivier Nakache and Eric To…
film profile], a grating comedy in step with our times on a backdrop of end of the month and end of the world, that sees two anti-heros washed out by debts, engaged (almost) unwillingly in the fight against climate change. The film comes out tomorrow in France and Belgium via Gaumont and Cinéart respectively.
Cineuropa: What are the origins of this project?
Eric Toledano: During COVID, we were writing a film that we set aside, because this image of the entire world put on pause, this total stoppage of machinery, as if we’d been punished, intrigued us too much. You’re no longer moving, no longer going out, you don’t see your friends. You start thinking. Well, maybe we could have talked about this with a shrink, but we made it into a film instead! Also because a political and media mantra was emerging then: the world after. The place where everything will change, a world that won’t have the same rules anymore. They told us that air traffic had reached saturation, that the earth was finally breathing, that animals were coming back to the cities… All these questions arrived at that moment… and left as quickly as they’d arrived! When we live through major events, there are experts to explain where we’re at, and artists to interrogate the moment. We wanted to make a sort of Italian comedy, grating, that would bother people a little, that shakes things up and questions. What is the link between consumerism and ecology? Can those who are in the red financially and those who strive for minimalism ever meet? And in a very pragmatic way, we saw a video by Extinction Rebellion with young people stopping customers from running toward Black Friday sales. An almost animalistic picture of society where people push each other one way and another. Not a period film, but a film of the period.
Is there a generational issue?
Olivier Nakache: It’s true that there’s a majority of young people in the environment activists of the Extinction Rebellion type, and it’s clear that this generation is telling us something, and not only its activists, by the way. They have a software that is very different from the one we had at their age. And we sincerely hope that their awareness regarding environmental issues will make things change. While working on the film, we talked, collaborated, and debated with this youth. It was very interesting to find the friction zone between our two amazing losers and these young people.
These young people can have a way of taking action that can be annoying for some people, but here comedy allows activism to be shared and to use cinema as a way of raising awareness.
ET: It’s evident that some people can feel resistant to these choices of activism. But these immediately spoke to us, because their activism is mise-en-scène. When we talked with them, they told us about the fake blood on the Trocadero, the banker disguises… We liked to bring their struggle out of anonymity through the character of Valentine. We get a lot of young people in the cinema thanks to Jonathan Coen, and they recognise themselves in the anxiety, the eco-anxiety that the film shows. We try not to be disconnected from reality. What scares us is to put labels, but also to be out of step with reality. Sometimes I see directors I love, who once managed to get to grips with their times, and who suddenly tell stories that feel a bit out of touch. I hope that, in our way, we still manage to capture what surrounds us.
Speaking of which, how did you work to be in step with the times?
ON: We met a lot of activists, we did some protests with them, as well as with volunteers who take care of excessive debt, before and during the writing of the script to compare our ideas with reality.
(Translated from French)
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