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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

The Father

by writer/director Florian Zeller

The Father tells the story of an 81-year-old man, Anthony, who gradually loses his bearings.

If this character is named this way, it is because while dreaming of this film, at the time of writing its script, I could only see just one face: Anthony Hopkins’. I had the conviction he would be extraordinarily powerful in this role. To me, he is one of the greatest living actors. We all know him, through the roles he magnificently played throughout his long career, as a very clever man who’s always in control of the situation. It seemed to me that seeing this man in particular precisely losing control of the situation would give this film the tragic dimension I wanted it to have. It was also an occasion for him, for us, to explore a new emotional territory, to venture into somewhere he had never been yet, this place of great fragility and extreme vulnerability in which I sensed he would be heartbreaking, and which deeply moved me.

If it so deeply moved me, it is because while writing this story I thought a lot about my grandmother, who raised me and started suffering from dementia when I was fifteen. While taking care of her, I discovered the hardship of degeneration, as well as the one of powerlessness.

Yet The Father isn’t only my story. Above all else, I wanted it to be our story.

For everyone has a grandmother, everyone has a father, and everyone will one day be confronted with this painful dilemma: what should we do with people we love once they start losing their bearings? What I was interested in was precisely to be able to share these emotions. I think there is something fundamentally cathartic in remembering we are all in the same boat, we are linked together, by fear, but also by love. This is our condition. And I think there is a consolation, a real and beautiful one, in feeling through a film that we all belong to something larger than us, and which is called humanity, even if it’s a painful humanity.

This is one of the reasons why I am so happy this film can be watched in movie theaters. To me, the experience is unique as long as it’s shared. We share some time and space with people we don’t know, but who cease to be strangers by the sole fact that we’ve shared an emotional experience that moves us.

Because it is indeed an experience. I wanted The Father to be not only a story, but an experience: the one of losing all our bearings. For this, I tried to put the audience in a unique position, as if they were to venture into a labyrinth and experience from within a world that seems to have lost all logic.

My hope is that, once we’ve gone through this same labyrinth, each one of us will have the capacity for more compassion, fraternity and love.

Posted March 9, 2021

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