Presented at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs during the last Cannes Film Festival, the film See Paris again, inspired by the attacks of November 13, 2015, starring Virginie Efira and Benoît Magimel, will be released in cinemas on Wednesday September 7. We met its director Alice Winocour, who tells us about her conception of the film.
Franceinfo Culture: Cow did the idea for this film come about?
Alice Winocourt: It is inspired by the memories I have of that particular night: that of November 13, 2015, the attacks at the Bataclan and the terraces. It turns out that this night was very special for me because my little brother was in the Bataclan… He survived. I observed how memory constructed and deconstructed events. And afterwards, it was immediately obvious to me that the film shouldn’t really represent these attacks, that there is something unrepresentable in an attack. The objective was to shift things into fiction and tell the story of an attack that did not exist. There was also this investigative work that I did because thanks to my brother, I was able to meet a lot of survivors, a lot of post-trauma psychiatrists. It was a kind of back and forth between these testimonies and the story that I built, that of this woman who is looking for the hand of the man she has lost, in any case of the one who held her hand during the attack.
Why this title: “Revoir Paris”?
Paris is really a character in the film because I have the impression that this city is wounded in its flesh. We all felt it as a Parisian. You don’t need to have someone in your family to have been affected by these attacks. For me, there is this place and there is this character who walks in the city, who reconfigures his life without knowing it and who sees the city with new eyes because he is a new person. What really interested me was the traces left by a traumatic event and how much you look at things differently afterwards.
How would you describe your film?
It’s a dating movie. I wanted it to be a journey of luminous resilience, for the film to be paradoxically very gentle on this woman who is rebuilding herself. But also show how complicated and long it is to rebuild. It is also an investigation film where she is looking for this person who helped her to survive. It’s not just a story of a personal destiny, it’s also a collective film where there is the memory of this character played by Virginie Efira, but also many other memories, those of all the people she meets, who each tell their night, how they lived it.
For me, it was important that the film be choral because I also wanted to pay tribute to what really fascinated me when I discovered the victims’ forums, the testimonies… It was the fact that there was a extremely close-knit community, people who wanted to rebuild themselves, with this idea that we cannot rebuild ourselves alone. I found it quite fascinating these people who were looking for the people who had smiled at them for a split second during the attack or whom they had met. They wanted to hear from them and find out if they were okay. They even wanted, for some, to return to the scene of the attacks.
There is a lot of humanity in this feature film…
I wanted to tell a romantic story that this human warmth exalts. In situations of barbarism or terrorism, there are abominable things and at the same time there are looks, outstretched hands, extremely fragile things that hold the human community together. There is this idea that despite everything we have a society and that’s what the film exalted. In a climate precisely where terrorists want to sow fear, it’s really a film about the bond and human warmth, what the terrorists want to destroy and which have not destroyed and which will never destroy. This is what touched me in these courses. It’s not that there’s an obligation to the course of resilience but in any case I wanted to look at it as what we call the diamond in the trauma that we talk about in the film.
That is to say, behind any traumatic event – it happens that in the film it is an attack – there are stories of friendship, stories of love, people who would not have not met without this abominable event. It connects people who come from extremely different worlds and social classes. While we are all imprisoned in our classrooms and in our worlds, it crushes social barriers. We are all equal before death and when we have had this experience of death next to someone, we are linked for life.
The main characters of Mia and Thomas grow closer “thanks” to their injuries…
For me, the essence of love is recognizing common wounds and healing together. I was very lucky to work with Virginie Efira and Benoît Magimel who are actors who provoke a lot of empathy, who are very human. There is something very strong about organizing their meeting because they had never toured together.
Mia becomes a new person after this attack…
Regardless of the reconstruction of this puzzle, of this traumatic night, she completely reconfigures her life without realizing it. All things considered, this is something that we were also able to experience during the Covid. When you take some distance from your life, you wonder if you made the right choices. And once again, people who have come close to death often ask themselves the question of happiness. For me it was important to show that she is a free woman and that she also has attributes that could be described as masculine where she is on her motorcycle, she criss-crosses the city, a form of great freedom. That’s what I really liked about actress Virginie Efira, that she carries this freedom and this strength within her. I like strong female characters.