Dinner with Du plomb pour les bêtes (Lead For the Animals)
How did you come up with the idea for your film?
First and foremost, I wanted to make a film about a scapegoat. My interest began to develop after the attacks in January 2015 amidst the extremely tense atmosphere they generated. Obviously, the perpetrators needed to found, and as so often is the case, all of our fears crystallized in the figure of the foreigner. And it was on this figure of the foreigner that we were able to unload all of our fears – he was responsible for all of our problems and hence was the source of all the ills of our society.
That’s how I began wondering just how a real bastard could take advantage of a world like that. Because bastards – and that’s one of their prime traits – are always very good at taking advantage of any situation whether good or bad…
As a great admirer of Jim Thompson’s books, I nevertheless hoped that this film would not tackle these issues straight on, but rather aim to describe a disintegrating world.
Anyway, I must confess one thing: I’ve always hated seeing the villain fail in the movies! In fact, I’ve never understood how these highly intelligent villains who are so good at coming up with the most twisted plans always seem to engineer their own demise!
In real life, they always come out on top. And what is worse, they often manage to come out looking like heroes, for we all know that history is written by the victors…
Why did you not want to give any information about your main character, Yanis’ past and background?
It was really important to me that the character seem to be coming out of a fog. We should be asking questions about his past, but it should all still remain mysterious. As if he were a sort of ghost, a wandering soul. He had to be the ideal culprit – someone who came from nowhere, with no connections, with a dark past.
But in reality, those were choices that we made relatively late in the creative process. For a long time, the script explained much more about the character’s situation. I think that was a necessary step for us to be able to make our own film with Mehdi Ramdani, who plays the character. But during shooting, and even more so during editing, we methodically erased all of those elements that really didn’t add much to the story.
What mattered was showing how the weak are exploited by the strong. At that point we no longer had any need to explain the character’s whole life.
What interested you about the hunt and flight?
To begin with, let’s take the question of flight, since that was the first part of the script. The organization into two distinct parts, with a flight into the woods, was central to the film’s construction. The idea was that the character of Yanis spent his life fleeing until he arrives in that hotel. The army as a flight from a world that is too tough, then flight from the army, and finally flight from the world and its marginalization…
His arrival in the hotel then becomes a form of rebirth. A way for him to re-socialize, a place that afforded him some interest… His life was perhaps about to begin. That scene of flight, at night and into the woods, signals a return of violence and of a form of ineluctable fate.
The hunt, on the other hand, is a very clear reference to The Most Dangerous Game and, by extension, to the unhealthy pleasure of hunting human game. But what I was most interested in was building the whole film around the fact that the main character is perceived as a prey. There is something highly perverse in the cold fact of valorizing someone you are getting ready to kill.
So the hunt comes across as a chess match as it is unfolding.
Where did find the actor who plays the hotel director and his disturbing voice?
Gabriel Le Doze is actually the father of a very old friend of mine. Even when we were young, he liked to scare us to death! Unconsciously, I most certainly plumbed my memories when writing that role! We had already worked together on my student film project, and he had show great generosity and dedication, so it seemed quite natural for me to continue working with him again on this film. As for his voice, well, yes, that is something very interesting about him, since he is a voice actor – he dubs Franck Underwood in particular! – and that very precise voice work allows him to produce very complex emotions and unease without having to move his whole body. So we tried to create ambiguous sensations that corresponded very well to his calculating, twisted character.
Why was it important that it be a hotel, and not a private home or even a village?
The element of the job was an important stage in the “reconstruction” of Yaris’ character. It is through the job, and because he is needed that he can finally head towards a future. I think that would have been very different if he had simply been staying with somebody in the neighborhood or in an empty house in a village. At the same time, the idea that we might have of a hotel is often associated with wealth and pleasure. Those notions were very important for establishing a contrast with the question of death.
Any cinematic coups de cœur in the past year you’d like to tell us about?
Train to Busan! I’m not a big fan of zombie movies, but I do think this particular cinematic genre is very interesting because, behind its seemingly grotesque aspects, it is a wonderful vehicle to talk about our era, human relations and the question of the end of Humanity as we know it. Not of human beings, but of what makes us Men. I’d also like to mention Midnight Special and Hail Caesar! (which was strangely retitled Ave, César ! for the French public, reducing its impact). First of all because I, like many people, very much appreciate the films of Jeff Nichols and the Coen Brothers, and because both of these films were disappointments that were nevertheless trying to present a special view of the world.
If you’ve already been to Clermont-Ferrand, could you share with us an anecdote from the festival? If not, what are your expectations for this year?
This will be my first time! I think I’m like everyone who has the chance to show his or her film here in wanting mine to find an audience. In this case too, it will be the film’s first screening, especially for the technical team, so I hope the film will be up to the standards of their dedication. I am actually very happy to be able to show my film here, and I am also happy that everyone who has made it possible will have the opportunity to see it in such a setting.