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28 November 2016

This past week ALONE IN BERLIN opened in France and Vincent conducted a few interviews.  You can access the i24news video interview by clicking on the photo below.

Le Figaro featured this photo of Vincent online but didn't include their interview.

Here are a few questions Vincent answered for Le

You took nearly ten years to make this film. Why such obstinacy?

Vincent: I read the novel by Hans Fallada in 2007, and I had a shock. At last I heard the voices of those ordinary Germans who had not supported the rise of Nazism and realized the daily life of these people who were obliged to live with their convictions under a totalitarian regime. My paternal grandfather was executed very young by Franco's fascist regime. And my maternal family had to flee Nazi Germany. My mother was born in 1939. Her parents, like many others, chose the exodus to the East and spent five years on the road before they could return to their country after the war. Having German blood begged many questions, and for the first time a book gave me some answers. When I went to Germany in the footsteps of my ancestors, I realized that no member of my family had been a member of the Nazi Party. However, not adhering was considered an act of resistance.

Why did you shoot the film in English?

Vincent: Despite the international success of "Good bye, Lenin!" or "The White Ribbon", we did not manage to attract German financiers. I was about to give up when, in 2009, the book was released in English in the United States at Melville House under the title "Every Man Dies Alone", and in the United Kingdom at Penguin Books  under the title "Alone in Berlin". The novel quickly sold more than half a million copies. So I read it in English, and then I understood that morality was changed. That this narrative concerned not only Nazi Germany, but any act of resistance of any kind and wherever it may be.

The character of Escherich is interesting, because he is not Nazi but still responsible for finding those who are considered traitors to the fatherland. He is under a terrible pressure from the SS. It's a bit of each of us, this character. With our doubts, our conscience, our weaknesses...

Does the film echo the rise of populism that we live today?

Vincent: Unquestionably. What are these postcards if not the tweets of today? It should not be forgotten that in the 1920s the Germans mocked the Nazis by saying that the party would never go anywhere. History shows us that if we are not attentive, it can happen again. The film, of course, reflects on the rise of extremes that we see reappearing all over Europe.

Here are a few more production photos from HOCHELAGA, LAND OF SOULS, filmed in Montreal last month. Wonderful costuming!

20 November 2016

On Tuesday Vincent attended the International Film Festival of History of Pessac, where his film, ALONE IN BERLIN, was screened in competition. The theme of the 27th edition is "Culture and Freedom". Describing his film, he said, "What's important is to provoke emotions, questions, make people think... What would I have done in such as case? It does not belong to the German past. Ever time I present the film, I am told that it echoes what is happening today with the rise of extremism. It changes the morality of history a bit. It's a film for all of us." Here is a French link to a Pessac interview. The film will premiere in France on Wednesday.

As for future directing possibilities, Vincent admits he has another project in mind, an original idea on which he remains discreet. He only says, "It will be a psychological thriller. I intend to do the casting in January and film before the summer."

07 November 2016

About a month ago, the Italian edition of GQ featured an interview with Vincent since ALONE IN BERLIN had just arrived to open in Italian cinemas. This gave him the opportunity to discuss more of his personal thoughts on his film.

He told GQ - "I share the idea that Germany was the first country invaded by the Nazis as expressed by Sebastien Haffner in his most famous book; I felt this fear perfectly described in Fallada's book. He answered many of the questions I had asked on the German side of my family, decimated like many others in Europe divided between fascism and communism. My parents, a Spanish father and a German mother, are children of that generation that have suffered much. As their son, I inherited many of those questions that were left unanswered. It took time, determination and a certain stubbornness but I felt a need to make this movie. I meant it as a testimony and a tribute to all those people who have struggled with their own means against the Nazi monster. It is as if through this film I speak for my own ancestors. And there I found the answers I was looking for.

Vincent believes today's hyper-connected world can still encourage silent revolutions. He says, "For me the postcards that these characters write are the ancestors of text messages and tweets. The Quangels sent messages that aimed to make people understand that the world was in an impasse, pushing to break down a wall. They denounced the ignominy of the actions of those who were at the helm of a country in the grip of madness."

And what kind of reactions has the film received? Vincent responds, "Very beautiful, the latest from Israel where it has just arrived. It's an important story that needs to be seen because it portrays the daily life of ordinary citizens under the Third Reich and takes a new look at the Germans during World War II. Berlin and the French public have also reacted positively. At every screening, I see people very shaken by the story. The film is coming out in about thirty countries so I'm getting ready to accompany it as I'm able to. In the meantime, I'll be on the set of the upcoming film directed by Roman Polanski. I have always dreamed of working with him."

That's true! Vincent has been cast in the French film, D'APRČS UNE HISTOIRE VRAIE (Based on a True Story), from the novel by Delphine de Vigan. Filming began this week in the Perche region in the village of Chapelle-Royale. Roman's wife, Emmanuelle Seigner also stars. Filming is expected to continue in the municipality of Altars-Villevillon but also in Paris. This drama thriller tells the story of a writer who goes through a tough period after the release of her latest book, as she gets involved with an obsessive admirer. Here's a photo of Vincent and Roman taken six years ago.

Update: Although filming has begun on the Polanski project, Vincent is presently in Nice on location for Neil Jordan’s RIVIERA, a high-profile TV crime series.

01 November 2016

Vincent will be in attendance at an advanced screening of ALONE IN BERLIN (Seul dans Berlin) in Lyon on Wednesday evening at 8 pm. It is being sponsored by L’Association Enfants Cancers Santé at Cinéma Pathé Bellecour. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the director. As many of you know, it took Vincent many years to bring this project to fruition. In 2007, Vincent read German author Hans Fallada’s anti-Nazi novel "Every Man Dies Alone". Originally published in 1947, the book had deep meaning for him because his mother was born in Germany in 1939 and the family suffered under the Nazi regime. After researching his German roots, Vincent was determined to turn the book into a film. He says, "It’s a story that had to be told. It became an obsession that never left me."

He continues, "What was most attractive to me was the very simple story of the Quangels. They’re ordinary people who do something quite extraordinary. They’re heroes but they’re reachable heroes. What they did was something anybody can do, but nobody was doing because it was too dangerous."

"Every Man Dies Alone" has been adapted before, twice for German television, but Vincent and his Paris-based producer, Master Movie’s Marco Pacchioni, found French financiers were not interested in telling a German story. Then, at Cannes in 2009, Vincent met X-Filme’s Stefan Arndt, producer of that year’s Palme d’Or winner "The White Ribbon". The book was one of Arndt’s favorites and he agreed to partner, although they discovered German financiers were not that keen either.

"I was convinced that with the background of the Palme d’Or, an Academy Award nomination [for "The White Ribbon"], German film prizes, European Film Awards, I really thought I’d be able to finance it," says Arndt. "And I failed."

At that stage, the plan was to shoot in German, but when the book was translated into English for the first time in 2009 and became an international bestseller, it suddenly made sense to make it in English, opening up potential financing streams and audiences. Vincent determined to tell a universal story rather than a specifically German one.

He thought, "Why tell this story to the German people, they know their story. The Germans are doing such fantastic work on not forgetting what happened. And so the idea with Stefan was to open it up and to tell it everywhere, to make it more international."

Vincent then began work on a new script, in collaboration with Good Bye Lenin! screenwriter Achim von Borries and overseen by James Schamus, who joined the project as a producer. Following the 2014 Berlinale, Paul Trijbits and Christian Grass of UK-based FilmWave also came on board as producers. Budgeted at $16.4m (€15m), the project was set up as a Germany-UK-France co-production.

To replicate wartime Berlin, the filmmakers shot briefly in the German capital but mostly in Görlitz, where "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Reader" had previously been filmed. The production team renovated an empty building to stand in for 55 Jablonski Street, the apartment house where Otto and Anna reside in close proximity to their neighbors - a retired judge, an elderly Jewish lady and members of the SS.

Vincent says Emma Thompson was the only person he considered for the role of Anna Quangel. Luckily, the Oscar-winning actress and screenwriter was also a fan of Fallada. Mark Rylance was cast as Otto but had to bow out due to a scheduling conflict, and Brendan Gleeson signed on.

"I think Emma always wanted to play this part and she’s wonderful," says Trijbits. "She is able to transport us into Jablowski Street and you can totally imagine her living there in the world we’ve created."

So much so, says Vincent that when both Thompson and Gleeson first stepped into their characters’ apartment, they rearranged the props. "She moved some chairs, some furniture. She recreated a place for herself. He did the same thing, as if they were really moving into that apartment together."

"Otto Quangel is described in the book as a slightly different kind of character but Brendan brings such an intense, powerful, quiet but hugely rich, nuanced performance," says Trijbits.

"He’s an incredible actor," says Vincent. "I was so lucky to have him play that part, because he doesn’t show anything but you feel so much when he’s Otto. He’s so intense. He did so much research. It was wonderful to work with him."



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