Summer is gone, the gloomy allure of autumn is in full swing, and with it come the dark clouds and the dead leaves. Speaking of gloominess and dead things, ‘The Death of Olivier Bécaille’ (La Mort d’Olivier Bécaille) won our Film of the Month award for August 2017. We had a short talk with the film’s director, Yoann Boisson.
JL: Congratulations for winning TMFF’s Film of the Month award! How does it feel to win an award for your first film as a director?
Yoann: I feel of course very happy and glad. But I feel happy for the team too. To be recognized for a work that asks for so much energy and time is always something that helps you to continue in this way.
JL: Have you planned to adapt an Émile Zola film for a while, or did it come to you as an idea more recently?
Yoann: I will let the other head of project of this movie, actor and screenwriter Alexandre Mousset answer these two next questions.
Alexandre: It is a complete matter of chance that put Emile Zola’s novel into my hands two years ago. I was just looking for something new to read and as I began reading I remembered saying to myself this would be such a great movie and that was it. I began the adaptation right away.
JL: Are there a lot of personal touches and modifications in your adaptation (apart from the present day setting), or have you mostly stayed faithful to the original material?
Alexandre: I began with a very faithful adaptation and touch by touch I made some modifications due to the run of my imagination. A quite good example is the old man who gives shelter to Olivier when he finally gets out of the coffin (if you choose to believe that he actually did). At first, it was like in the novel, an old man who generously treats Olivier and gives him some time to get back on his feet. And then I said to myself: what a strange guy… especially as I had transposed the entire story in the present day. Who would give shelter to a complete stranger covered with mud, bathe him, feed him for no reason. So I began to ask myself: what is he looking for ? So I added some strangeness into the character. Maybe he was a kind of a psychopath? Maybe even a killer? So I wrote down a few strange actions Olivier could see him do while in his awaken moments. At the end, for different questions of timing and rhythm we only kept the feet washing. I really like this moment, it gives such a strange and intimate impression.
JL: Which was, in your opinion, the most difficult moment or aspect of the production process of ‘The Death of Olivier Bécaille’?
Yoann: The most difficult process was to produce it in a different time and a different place. At first, there was a little team for the Britain shots and after one month, we shot in Paris in different places waiting for autorisation, a good weather, and the good places.
JL: The atmosphere and message of the film is perfectly dosed: amusing and sombre in the same time. How did you manage to achieve the perfect balance?
Yoann: It was thought from the script to the direction but the music person and the editor continued in this way, putting some jazz music in the main central scenes.
JL: Have you been involved in other film projects before?
Yoann: Yes, I did.
JL: Apart from the big prize, your film has also been distinguished with two of our other awards: Screenwriter of the Month for Alexandre Mousset and Cinematographer of the Month for Marc Benoliel. How did you get to establish such a talented team from the get-go?
Yoann: I know them for a long time now since we used to work together. We all grew up in a professional medium and we met for personal projects too. They are passioned and we trust together when we make a movie.
JL: What do you feel was the most important lesson that you learned while filming ‘The Death of Olivier Bécaille’ – a takeaway that you’ll seek to apply in your next project?
Yoann: I learned so much and unconsciously as a director that I cannot manage to explain. However, I would like to say is that for the next project, with all the energy that it requires, I will prefer to go for a big project like that with more money.
JL: What have you got planned for the near future? Any new projects that you’ve started or have in the planning phase?
Yoann: I think I will take time to write or to wait for a good script and direct a long theatre play.
JL: How can we stay up to date with any updates regarding ‘The Death of Olivier Bécaille’, or any other potential projects from you?
Yoann: There is a Facebook page called «la mort d’olivier Becaille » (the french title) to follow the update of this movie and my personal Facebook page called «John Beverage« to follow my updates.
JL – Thank you so much for your time, and our sincerest congratulations once again! We wish you all the best in your future endeavours, and hope to enjoy your work again soon!
Yoann: Thanks a lot to your festival and team too.