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ERIC LARTIGAU Director & ScreenwriterEric Lartigau is a French director, born in 1964. He began his film career as a director's assistant in advertising and has worked with Edouard Molinaro, Diane Kurys and Emir Kusturica.
In 1988, he directed sequences of Les Guignols de l'Info, a very popular satiric puppet show broadcast on Canal+ for five years. In 1989, he was assistant director on Les Maris, Les Femmes, Les Amants, directed by Pascal Thomas, and also had a small acting role.
He returned to Canal+ and directed episodes of the famous sitcom H with Eric and Ramzy in 2000 and 2001.
In 2002, he directed his first feature film, a comedy, But Who Killed Pamela Rose? starring the comic duo Kad & Olivier (Kad Merad and Olivier Baroux). Three years later, he directed a new comedy, A Ticket For Space, co-written with Julien Rappeneau, again starring Kad & Olivier.
Following the success of his comedies, Eric Lartigau directed I Do, co-starring Alain Chabat and Charlotte Gainsbourg, a huge box office success in France.
In 2009, in collaboration with EuropaCorp, he directs and adapts the screenplay for his first drama, The Big Picture, an adaptation of the novel by Douglas Kennedy, starring Romain Duris, Marina Foïs, Nils Arestrup and Catherine Deneuve, produced by Pierre-Ange Le Pogam.
Appropriating the Book
- I read the book eleven years ago. I immediately felt like filming it. Because even though it is a highly engrossing thriller, it is a profound piece of literature focusing on the search for identity: getting to know if one can really know oneself is a key issue raised by the book.
Obviously, you have to appropriate the book in your own way before you can turn it into a screenplay. My adaptation is just one take on the novel. There were a number of options and I took some liberties with the novel – at the risk of being unfaithful to it – but above all I did my best not to give the book an oversimplified treatment. My purpose was to thoroughly address the novel's issues. The challenge was to find a visual form to translate the written material into a movie.
Having a voiceover was not an option because it would have distanced the character from what he was experiencing. I wanted the audience to get inside the movie, just as the reader is inside Paul's mind and dwells in his inner monologue. The many subtle nuances of his thoughts, his contradictions, his fears and his mad hopes allow you to be at one with him; not to be judgemental of him, but to follow him. They allow you to understand him. But then again they may not.
I have sought to create tension, which is different from suspense. The point is not whether Paul will pull through or not, be arrested or not. The point is, will he survive his own escape? Will he survive a decision that at the same time liberates and condemns him? So this shows how much we meant to move away from a thriller.
This was the direction Laurent de Bartillat and I took for almost a year, and later with Emmanuelle Bercot and eventually Bernard Jeanjean, both of whom served as script-doctors throughout the writing process.
But the point was primarily to toy with this exhilarating subject matter. Haven't we all wished we could change our lives?
I'd discuss all these issues on a regular basis with Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, my producer. Interestingly, what I liked most during our talks was that I didn't have any answers to his questions. As for Pierre-Ange, he was amazingly self-composed. I believe he was never judgmental of me nor did he urge me to answer his questions. It all happened naturally.
Douglas Kennedy gave me total free rein. He only read the final draft, which he found both entertaining and surprising. What an unpredictable gentleman he is!
Life's Twists and Turns
- Paul's character raises all sorts of questions, which we all try to address more or less gently: Who am I? Do I know the answer? Am I what I appear to be? Am I responsible for my choices? What have I given up on? What is the meaning of my fears? How can I pinpoint them and still live with them? I like Paul because in the first part of the film, he doesn't ask himself these questions. Or he doesn't anymore. Or he doesn't allow himself to. We are all defined by compromises. We all make do with reality. Our identity is defined by the complex collection of what we have gained, lost or discovered, by life's twists and turns. It is defined by what is under our control and what is beyond our control. It is defined by what we accept or refuse.
Paul has become what was expected of him. Or even worse, what he thought was expected him.
He epitomizes success. His track record speaks for itself, whether it is his career, his wardrobe, his house, his wife or his car… He has built it all at his own expense. But what I find interesting about him is that he is in complete denial. He lives in self-delusion and is unaware of it. He seems unable to move on. He has lost his drive, although he looks cheerful, sincerely in love with his wife and happy with his children… Life is passing him by. It is the accident that stirs him up. He has no other option than to take action. The sudden sense of urgency helps him recover his ability to think, make things up, and act on – I'd even say recover – his ability to feel. For that matter, his progress after he escapes is all about his retrieving his senses. But what most resonates with me is that he actually begins seeing things, then looks at them. Looks at things.
This is one of the instructions I gave Romain Duris prior to the shoot. I suggested that during the first part of the film his gaze skim over things. Only later in the film does he actually look at people and things. This is the story of a man who opens up and touches base with reality. He recovers his identity by losing it. Thanks to photography, and more precisely to his newfound talent, he becomes somebody.
Is creativity spurred by loss? But deep within the new identity he has embraced, Paul struggles with the real issue: is there anything real left in my life? What is left of me?
Fears Across the Spectrum
- Fear across the spectrum is a driving force of the film, whether it is fear of oneself, fear of others, fear of failing, or even the fear that urges us to act wildly and keeps us from thinking and making decisions…
Paul is locked up in fears that he cannot put his finger on and that stop him from moving forward. Paradoxically, when he actually has to deal with danger, when fear materializes, and when he can pinpoint and accept that fear – then and only then does it become a driving force. I was strongly opposed to Paul being a victim. He is an amazingly strong character. He never gives up. Starting this new life imposed upon him by his insane choice, he has to struggle fiercely against himself. There must be something exciting, exhilarating about taking over somebody else's life. I wanted Paul to enjoy it from time to time and I wanted him to feel extremely powerful and revel in his newfound power. It is an overwhelming feeling and yet hard to cope with. Paul won't be able to cope with it.
Rugged and Wild
- Location scouting was not an easy process, but it was key. Paris and the place he moves to had to be poles part, just as New York City and Montana are poles apart in Douglas' novel. I wanted Paul to be confronted by a dangerous, rough ocean. I picked Brittany because it is a rugged, craggy, uneven, mighty, indomitable region. Then, Paul has to leave France behind. He heads for Eastern Europe because you can still blend in and vanish there. I had Croatia in mind but when I asked to be shown specific landscapes, people at the production right away mentioned Montenegro. I was immediately blown away by its rugged, wild, and terribly harsh countryside.
As Close As Can Be
- In my view, it was key to stick to Paul's character at all times, and never leave him for a second. For the audience to feel in sync with him, the camera had to follow him as closely as possible. His feelings should inform the audience's way of perceiving him. Consequently the crew had to do their utmost to adjust to his changing moods. They had to be unobtrusive, 'invisible'.
- For the opening scenes in Paris, I wanted bright, slick lighting and I wanted to use telephoto shots so that the backdrops could be blurred and the main character could stand out.
On the other hand, in Montenegro, we chiefly used a handheld camera and wide-angle shots so that Paul could blend into the setting – which he didn't in Paris. I wanted to illustrate the idea that Paul now knows how to look at things, be himself and see landscapes and people for what they are, pure and simple. So that's the broad outline of our story, which continues to inspire me with refreshing curiosity when I think back over the process of making the movie. The subject matter is so rich. It's fascinating to hear people give their versions, their interpretations, of choices they made.
Romain Duris: the Hero
- Even as I was writing the script, I already knew I wanted to work with Romain Duris and I was very fortunate: he called me only three days after reading the script to tell me that he was blown away! There is something both graceful and wild about him which immediately attracted me. He has an amazing knack for capturing all kinds of emotions like a magnet. He is deeply haunted, which you can see in his eyes, in the way he moves, in the way he behaves. He's also totally free, which is unusual in an actor. Even as he asks questions, he will come up with suggestions. It's very exciting for a director because you know that you can explore untrodden territory with him because he's a good listener. His art is seamless, unpretentious.
Catherine Deneuve and Romain Duris: Chemistry Works Wonders
- She is a highly lively, generous woman who pays great attention to people and is responsive to them.
She and Romain complement each other when it comes to working together. Interestingly, she embraces new ideas very enthusiastically and she's never blasé. She has a very keen interest in everything and an inquiring mind. It's a thrill to be working with her – it really is. From the moment Catherine and Romain met, it immediately clicked. They share the same lust for life, the same inquiring mind and the same interest in others. They are fast and always responsive, and all the while reserved and unassuming.
Marina Foïs: A Multi-Layered Actress
- She can jump from one mood to another in a single sentence, or even instantly. It's amazing! It's great to be shooting somebody who can do this. This shows she's a great listener and knows how to analyze things. She doesn't need to do much to have us understand exactly where she stands with Paul. It was crucial to have such a multi-layered actress on board at the beginning of the film so that you could relate to Paul's story. She grasped long before Paul where they stood. She's the catalyst, as women often are, aren't they? Marina is a rare, multi-layered actress. She is one of a kind.
Eric Ruff, or the Embodiment of Fortitude
- You can't possibly have him move over unless he wants to. Even if you shove him away, he won't budge.
I very much like his superior attitude with Paul, when he provokes him and plays cat-and-mouse with him. Characters that seem to be impervious to everything are awesome and unnerving. They are upsetting. Eric is a great actor.
Niels Arestrup: Larger Than Life
- Niels Arestrup was always a natural choice for Bartholomé's role. There isn't only something mysterious and inquisitive about him, but he has a strong presence and inspires fear – or at least makes you nervous – without having to do anything. He is also very funny, and I could well see him in a comedy because he has a good sense of pace and a wild look in his eyes. I needed the ambivalence because you keep wondering whether Bartholomé is a total jerk or a good guy – and this is what it all comes down to. He stands for danger because he is associated with unfathomable power. He is also wild, unpredictable, mighty. I love it.
Branka Katic: A Hypersensitive Actress
- From the start, Branka was a winning choice because she is a new face among French actors. She is passionate. She is hypersensitive. She has a searching, inquisitive eye, but she is not one to hammer home her point. She is powerful. I love to give actors leeway to come up with fresh ideas. Because I'm not so much interested in my own vision of the film as in confronting it to the actors' vision. Interacting with them is wonderfully invigorating.
Rigour and Folly
- With the help of Michael Wijnen and Alexandre Mahout from the Sound Department at EuropaCorp, we discovered a young Russian-born composer, Evgueni Galperine, who just blew me away. I asked him to write a symphonic score featuring odd sounds, offbeat rhythms and 'rests'. What I really enjoyed about Evgueni – and about his brother Sacha with whom he co-wrote the score – was the subtle combination of rigor and fantasy just about to burst out. This is something you often find in Russian artists. I am particularly fond of the highly unadorned, graceful guitar piece written for the hotel scene in Serbia. And I also like the piece for the scene where Paul takes pictures in the harbour.