VIDEO – Fred Cavayé: “‘Farewell Monsieur Haffmann’, it’s the autopsy of a bastard under the Occupation”

INTERVIEW – Fred Cavayé brings the hit piece “Adieu Monsieur Haffmann” to the screen. In theaters on January 12, this thriller which takes place under the Occupation is carried by the astonishing performances of Gilles Lellouche, Daniel Auteuil and Sara Giraudeau. For LCI, the filmmaker reveals its manufacturing secrets.

It is the first major French film of 2022. Adaptation of the play of the same name, awarded by Molière, Farewell Mr. Haffmann tells the story of a Jewish jeweler who decides to sell his shop to his employee in order to escape deportation, in the hope of recovering his property once the war is over. But nothing will go as planned …

Author of successful thrillers (For her, At close range), passed through comedy (Stingy!, The game), Fred Cavayé is making his first historical film. Daniel Auteuil plays Monsieur Haffmann, Gilles Lellouche his employee François Mercier while Sara Giraudeau plays Blanche, the latter’s wife. This exceptional trio serves a Machiavellian plot much more current than one might think, as the filmmaker told us.

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Adieu Monsieur Haffman is first and foremost a play by Jean-Philippe Daguerre. How did the idea of ​​adapting it to the cinema come about?

I have known Jean-Philippe Daguerre for a very long time. And when he writes the play, he sends me the text that I don’t read. Not out of laziness, but because I preferred to give it a viewer’s opinion, once the piece has been put on. Despite everything, he pitches the story to me and I make my own story. And when I finally see the play, which is great, deservedly multi-award winning – it’s not exactly the story I made for myself. I tell him then that I would be ready to adapt it. But by taking another direction. With her permission, I started writing with Sarah Kaminsky, the co-writer. We keep the same starting point. And we take a different path that will no longer do the autopsy of a bastard under the Occupation. Someone who, out of cowardice and opportunism, will make terrible choices for Mr. Haffman and for himself. It gave the ferment of a real thriller, a real thriller more than a war film. That is, this movie could be happening right now. And we would have the same problem.

On video

Farewell Mr. Haffmann: the trailer

You have reconstituted a district of Paris under the Occupation. But did you try to make the film 100% in camera?

I didn’t forbid myself anything at the start. I just wanted to go where the story wanted to take me. I had a station scene, for example. But I took it off very quickly because in Mr. Klein, there is a very famous one and I wanted to avoid falling into the homage or even plagiarism. Afterwards, even if we tell the little story in the big story, we still had to tell the life around. But I quickly realized that, due to the structure of the film, what interested the viewer were these three characters embodied by Daniel Auteuil, Gilles Lellouche and Sara Giraudeau. As soon as I tried to deviate a bit, with things that I shot, as soon as we were no longer with them, well that didn’t interest us anymore. It has to do with their interpretation of the three of them. And the fact that the pressure cooker fits with these three characters. And that we do not know when it will explode.

Situations of fear reveal in some heroism, the ability to do extraordinary things, and in others what we see in the film– Fred Cavayé

The suspense comes as much, if not more, from the relationship between Haffman and Mercier, as from the threat the Nazis pose to them, right?

The enemy for Haffmann, of course, is the Nazis. But in a first circle, it is the character of François Mercier who at the start is sympathetic and who will become much less so. And even a real danger. It was interesting to watch a character who becomes a bastard out of money, but little things. He is a deeply selfish person. Under the pretext of acting out of love for his wife, he only does things that will fix his shop as some people have done under the Occupation. It is a subject that is not covered very much in French cinema, in reality, even if there are some superb films like Uranus Where Lacombe Lucien. Much more has been done to glorify the heroes, the resistance, and rightly so. But this much darker pendant is less discussed while it allows to explore the blackness of the human soul in a formidable way.

What the movie says is that some extreme situations turn out the worst for some of us. Unfortunately, this is very current, isn’t it?

The fearful situations reveal in some heroism, the ability to do extraordinary things, and in others what you see in the film, yes. In the present period also people are afraid, even if the context is less dangerous. And if we are not vigilant with ourselves, we can indulge in certain behaviors, without going as far as François. Behaving well is an everyday job.

Unfortunately, the news means that we must continue to talk about this period– Fred Cavayé

The film comes out as the deportation of Jews resurfaced in the political debate through the statements of a presidential candidate. Does a film like this also serve to re-establish some truths?

Even if it is above all a thriller, it recalls certain truths, yes. The raids were the French police, sponsored by the occupier, of course. But the little hands were the French police. They are the ones who went to arrest the Jews. After that, there was no question of being Manichean while making the film. When you are ordered to go and round up a family, what possibility do you have to refuse? There are people who have done it with great zeal. Others who arranged to help. But you had to have the means to be courageous. A policeman who has a wife and three children, how does he say “No, I’m not going”? He goes underground with his family? All of this is extremely complex and everyone is struggling with the notion of right and wrong in a very stressful time. On this type of film, we say a lot “Another film from this period?”. But, unfortunately, the news makes it necessary to continue to speak about this period. Because, unfortunately, there are people who are remaking history. And we quickly forget.

>> Farewell Mr. Haffmann by Fred Cavayé. With Daniel Auteuil, Gilles Lellouche, Sara Giraudeau. In theaters January 12.

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