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Nicolas Klotz and Élisabeth Perceval • Directors of New World! (The World Anew)

“We’re effectively on the verge of destroying all living things, and cinema’s responsibility is to take this into account”


- We met with the French filmmaking duo to discuss their latest movie exploring the state of the world, and the effort they require from viewers

Nicolas Klotz and Élisabeth Perceval • Directors of New World! (The World Anew)

Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval have directed 15 feature films, both fiction films and documentaries, developing a brand of cinema which questions the cinematographic form and the upheavals of the modern world. Their latest work, New World! (The World Anew) [+see also:
interview: Nicolas Klotz and Élisabeth…
film profile
, was shot in Ouessant, an island off the coast of Brittany, where avant-garde French director Jean Epstein shot his docu-fiction film Finis Terrae in 1928. But where are we at, almost one hundred years later? We explored this question with the filmmaking duo at the 42nd Bellaria Film Festival, where their movie (which world premiered in FID Marseille 2023) was shown in an Event Screening.

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Cineuropa: Why the island of Ouessant and why Jean Epstein?
Nicolas Klotz: Jean Epstein wrote a lot about film. His editor who publishes his volumes, of which there are roughly a dozen, asked us to write a preface for the seventh volume which will be published soon. Epstein was ruined after a film called The Fall of the House of Usher. He was a very well-known filmmaker who worked a lot in Paris, but he lost a lot of money and he moved to the island of Ouessant to start filmmaking again from scratch. This was in the ‘20s. We realised that we’d need to go to Ouessant to write the preface, and to make a film at the same time: write and film, write and film… 

But there’s not only Epstein. There’s a rich combination of materials, texts and songs in your film, as well as voices from the past…
It’s a film with a number of films within it. There’s the film you see and the film you hear, because cinema is polyphonic, the world of sound is just as important as the visuals. We simply started by filming every day, and then we started editing and assembling the film. We asked a friend of ours, Alain Franco, who’s a composer, if he was interested in making some sound material for us, based on the material we’d already produced. The texts came to us gradually too; they’re texts which question the state of the world. Today, the sixth extinction, climate collapse, the world-wide state of war, are all so powerful, it’s impossible not to hear, even in a place like that.

Élisabeth Perceval: We’re effectively on the verge of destroying all living things, and film’s responsibility is to take that into account, but without sliding into despair. It’s actually about showing the extent to which things resist in the natural world, human beings and animals. And trying to see the immense beauty in this resistance. There are sounds we hear, words, people who are no longer of this world but who speak to us about this world, about the wonderful hope that René Char nurtured at the time; there’s also Hannah Arendt, Mahmoud Darwish…

There’s a phrase we hear in the film: “There are so many images everywhere, even more than there’s plastic in the oceans”. What is the filmmaker’s role in this context?
NK: The New Wave, and Godard in particular, did something incredibly important: they allowed images themselves to be critiqued. Nowadays the critiquing of images has vanished. The idea is to always maintain a critical relationship with images; we can’t just pump money into them and consume them. Images have to allow people to think, they should be troubling and encourage discussion. Making an image involves asking a lot of questions, and without that, the images are no longer interesting, they just become a way to control your imagination.

EP: I don’t think filmmakers should be afraid of requiring effort from viewers. Anything that isn’t controllable or predictable requires effort, even looking at someone’s face, catching someone’s eye. There’s a certain duration to a film shot, because there are things that happen inside of us. I don’t want to mistreat you, as viewers, but if it annoys you, let’s talk about it.

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(Translated from French)

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