He certainly didn’t expect his new feature to have such a big resonance. Seven César trophies later, including those awarded for best film and best direction, Dominik Moll is now well aware that this true – and unresolved – story of feminicide has allowed him to tackle real themes, well anchored in the zeitgeist. Interview.
It all started with reading a book in which it described an environment that Dominik Moll did not know at all. In 18.3 – A year at the PJ, the author Pauline Guéna recounted the results of her observations after following the daily life of the criminal brigades of the Versailles judicial police for a year. With his lifelong accomplice, Gilles Marchand, the director of Harry, a friend who wishes you well, wrote the screenplay for La nuit du 12, transposing the plot to Grenoble. He focused more particularly on the last case, recounted over thirty pages in a book which numbered 500.
“In this story, we specified that each investigator one day come across a story that consumes and haunts him, explains the filmmaker during an interview he gave us by videoconference. I was particularly fascinated by the unsolved nature of the case, even if, on a dramaturgical level, this represents an additional challenge. In thriller codes, there is usually a crime at the beginning, a culprit at the end, and everyone is happy. This time, I rather wanted to explore what generates this kind of impasse among investigators on an intimate level. »
For Yohann (Bastien Bouillon, winner of the César Award for Young Male Hope thanks to his performance in this film), the unexplained murder of a young woman, set on fire in the middle of the night after leaving a party that took place at her best friend’s , is a constant obsession. Especially since all the suspects we question are systematically released, all having an alibi. One of the angles from which Dominik Moll approaches this story is to show the world of the judicial police from a realistic point of view, much like Pauline Guéna did in her book.
“Although there are obviously exceptions, the world of the judicial police remains essentially male, recognizes the filmmaker. These men are not necessarily doing their jobs poorly, but it is true that the women involved in this case have important questions. »
“We had to question some things about masculinity. Movement
To the challenge of portraying differently in a work of fiction an environment that has nurtured so many police dramas – a genre in itself in cinema and on television – was added the challenge of holding the viewer’s attention with a story without ending, told without glamor or artifice.
“Escape from the television imagery we have of this medium is not always easy, particularly in terms of dialogue, agrees Dominik Moll. The resulting reflection sometimes leads to interesting solutions. For example, several scenes take place without dialogue – a bit like Melville – because they can too easily fall into the cliche. It was also necessary that the character of the victim remains very present, that this young woman does not fall into oblivion. »
With a career as a filmmaker that will soon span three decades (Intimité, his first feature film, was released in 1994), the French filmmaker of German origin is still enthusiastic about the process of making a film. Maturity also brings another perspective on recognition and notoriety. In this respect, the Cesar for best director obtained recently takes on a slightly different character from that received in 2001 thanks to Harry, a friend who wishes you well, his second feature film.
“I was younger, so suddenly I put pressure on myself for the future,” recalls Dominik Moll. It was the best way to shoot yourself in the foot. It then took me five years to do Lemming. I feel that pressure less now. Of course, I am delighted with the rewards and honors we are given. But what also matters is to turn the page and move on to the next film. »
La nuit du 12 was launched last year at the Cannes Film Festival in the (non-competitive) Cannes Premiere section. How does Dominik Moll explain the critical and public success that followed?
“We always want a film to meet its audience, even if we know very well that there are no guarantees. All this remains quite mysterious. It may come at the right time whereas, released two years earlier, it may go unnoticed. With La nuit du 12, we felt that the mayonnaise was taking hold little by little during the work screenings. Then, we received a warm welcome in Cannes, including from the exhibitors. The indoor career lasted a few months, which is now extremely rare. Over the weeks, we also felt that the audience was getting younger! »
Nothing has pleased the filmmaker more than the César for high school students, a bit like the equivalent in France of the Prix collégial du cinema québécois.
“It is in my eyes one of the most beautiful surprises. And one of the greatest rewards,” says Dominik Moll.
Born in 1962, Dominik Moll first went to study cinema in New York before joining the Institute for Advanced Film Studies in Paris. It was there that he met his accomplice Gilles Marchand, with whom he wrote all his screenplays.
It imposed itself in the year 2000 thanks to Harry, a friend who wishes you well, an anxiety-provoking drama whose headliners are Laurent Lucas and Sergi López. This second feature first earned him a selection in official competition at the Cannes Film Festival, then nine citations at the Césars and four trophies.
The Night of the 12th is the seventh feature film by a filmmaker to whom we owe Lemming, The Monk and Only the Beasts.