As many films as I see a year it takes a lot to impress me which is why when I call
the new film Sarah’s Key one of my favorites of the year, its no small quip. Sarah’s
Key tells the story of a journalist Julia Jarmond who uncovers a tragic secret that
spans all the way back to 1942 in Paris when the French Government deported over
70,000 Jews in the notorious and almost forgotten Vel’ d’Hiv deportation. It’s a
films of mystery however that spans until present day unlocking mysteries and hidden
truths. Led by Oscar nominated actress Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient,
The Horse Whisperer). I had the chance to talk with director and screenwriter Gilles
Paquet-Brenner on his beautiful new film that has already received rave reviews at
film festivals and will be opening July 29th.
Dustin Chase: What was the most difficult part about adapting such a difficult story
yet such a beloved novel?
Gilles Paquet-Brenner: The real challenge of adapting the book was about the two
different periods of time. The book is very well plotted with great characters, so
its not like we had to change it. The movie is very faithful to the book. I wanted
the movie to stay fluid, I didn’t want to lose the audience, I want them to instantly
know what period of time we are in. We worked a lot on the pacing and the transition
to find the right balance between the two periods of time.
DC: How did Kristin Scott Thomas come to the film, and was the she first choice?
GPB: She was totally the first choice and the only choice. She has been living in
Paris for 25 years, she is one of the finest actors in the world, it was a no brainer,
people like her a lot and respect her a lot. We were actually lucky Kristin existed,
from a French perspective the French could really believe in her.
DC: The editing in the first hour of the film is highly important to merging the
two stories, how much time was spent in the editing room and were there shots you
had to reshoot?
GPB: We started editing while we were still shooting the 1942 period. I was lucky
to have one of the best French editors and maybe one of the worlds best editors,
Herve Schneid the guy who edited Amelie. We asked him to do the movie because we
felt we needed the top editor to find the right balance. We didn’t have to reshoot
DC: How did Aiden Quinn get involved with the film
GPB: It was the New York casting director, when they mentioned his name I was like
where has he been, I remember the movie he made in the 90’s Legends of the Fall.
I thought it was a great opportunity to have him, he is a great actor. He has this
look in his eyes, he has very powerful eyes and I wanted the audience to see something
with his characters eyes that would remind them of Sarah.
DC: When Sarah finally opens the door to find her brother, did you ever consider
showing the body or was it always a choice just to focus on the reactions of the
GPB: Of course we talked about it. I always felt you don’t have to show it for different
reasons, first it isn’t a horror movie. I think what really matters in that scene
is not to see what is in the closet, is to see the reactions of the people who watched
that, and what they are seeing will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
DC: I saw two different trailers, one English version and a French version, I’m
assuming there are two different version of the film?
GPB: There are two versions of the film, what we call the French cut and the US
cut. Basically it’s the same movie, and I supervised the US cut. There is actually
only about forty minutes of English added to the US version. We felt that for an
American audience we had to make minor changes, but if you saw the French cut you
would see the same movie.
DC: Were there any scenes that were different or different running time?
GPB: I think the US cut is about nine minutes shorter, we mostly cut French scenes,
but the French cut was shown in Australia and New Zealand as far as English speaking
DC: What do you hope US audiences take away from this film?
GPB: Different things, we are very use to seeing Nazi’s do horrible things in Holocost
movies, but here they will see the French Government cooperating with the Nazi’s
and the same in other countries. I am sure other people have been discovering that.
The other thing is that in a world where its all about now, Facebook, Twitter, sometimes
it’s good to know your past and take the time to understand that its your past that
made you what you are today.