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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Frantz

by writer/director François Ozon

Why Frantz today?

When I first spoke to my producers about my desire to make a film on the aftermath of the First World War, I felt a certain skepticism and perplexity in their initial reaction. Why recall this specific period? Today, is it of interest to anyone? What is the point of returning to outdated political issues? Period pieces no longer interest the public, etc....

Their lack of enthusiasm was disappointing, but not discouraging. I quickly realized in my research and early script development that by telling the story of a young Frenchman and a young German woman caught up in the turmoil of the aftermath of World War I—a frightening period of rising nationalism, populist and extreme right parties full of hatred and fear of "foreigners”—I was indirectly alluding to today. I did not know yet that the Brexit would happen and tear Europe apart, or that America would elect Donald Trump.

Without being fully aware of it, my film became political. As a French director, I had to tell the story from the point of view of the young German, as, in Broken Lullaby, the German-born Ernst Lubitsch had told the same story from the point of view of the young Frenchman. Eighty years later, it seemed like a beautiful solution: to remake a pacifist film that would essentially contend that knowing others through culture and language is the best way to bring people together and avoid the atrocities of war.

Of course, my film could not be as optimistic as Lubitsch’s, which had a magnificent happy ending: an ironic reconciliation between a Frenchman and a German. Indeed when making his film in 1931, Lubitsch did not know that a second world war, just as horrible as the first one, would take place.

Thus, it is the weight of tragic historical events that these characters carry on their frail shoulders. To talk about them today seems to me still relevant, sadly so; knowing the past is often the best way to understand the present.