It’s more than a film, it’s the rebirth of a universe, an atmosphere, an era. ” We are from his childhood as we are from his country “, explains Mikhaël Hers, born in 1975 in Paris, director of “Passengers of the night” which is released Wednesday, May 4 in theaters in France.
On the big screen, we are not only captivated by the story of a Parisian family after Mitterrand’s victory in 1981, triggering the jubilation of (almost) an entire people, but we look behind the scenes of the History of France taking place in a family intimacy.
Charlotte Gainsbourg portrays Elisabeth, the mother jostled by an unexpected divorce, with an astonishing naturalness. During her search for a new destiny, she meets Vanda, a magnificent Emmanuelle Béart in the role of a radio host performing the night show with a deep and suave voice. passengers of the nighttribute to the cult show Hello Masha, by Macha Béranger, at the Maison de la radio, where listeners confided and confessed without filter in the anonymity and the proximity of the airwaves. This parallel universe adored by millions of listeners is proof that another world is possible. It is through this footbridge that Elisabeth will find her way and welcome a lost girl with whom her son will fall in love… Interview.
RFI : Are we all “ passengers of the night » ?
Mikhaël Hers : [Rires] In any case, we are all passengers of the night, of life, and of the day too. We are passing…
What kind of night passengers are we ?
That’s what the voice at the end says a little: we will have been only snippets, shadows, that people thought they glimpsed… We always know people in a rather fragmented way. It’s a mixture of a deep bond that people can have, a great intimacy and then there is always a part of mystery.
Passengers of the night starts in a jubilant French society, with a lot of joy, with people who open up to each other. After finishing your film set in the early 1980s, how did it feel to find yourself in today’s society with rather closed spaces and minds lacking in joy ?
I don’t idealize that period either. I wanted to immerse myself in it, because those were the years of my childhood and it is often said that one is from one’s childhood as one is from one’s country. I believe in it deeply. And it’s a great privilege that the cinema offers me to be able to dive back into those years and capture an image of them with sounds, ranges, sensations. But neither do I have an idealization of this period. When we take it with a step back and when we look at it in the shadow of the present, we can clearly see that this popular jubilation, all this agitation, this rejoicing, was short-lived. Very quickly, there was a policy of rigor and a lot of disappointment. So, it’s a bit of a bittersweet look. But I do not have an idealized image of this period.
One thing strikes in your film. To revive this era and this society, your gaze does not focus on work, but rather on the relationships between people. How do we behave with the other, how do we listen to the other. For you, was this the particularity of this time? ?
No, I think work is important. In this case, this woman, Elisabeth, finds herself, overnight, having to assume a daily life, having to reinvent things. Besides, she finds work, she needs to combine other jobs to live, so this question of work is important. Perhaps, at the time, it was easier to change lanes, to fork, to step aside, than today. Perhaps this question was a little less agonizing. But I’m not sure, because I experienced it as a child. Maybe I tell myself stories and make things up.
In your film, you navigate between today’s shoots and archive footage. For you, this is not a handicap, on the contrary, you give us the impression of reconstructing this period thanks to a liberation from dictatorship and the constraints of technology.
There are four different image formats in the film: the bulk of the film is shot digitally, but a digital one where we worked with filters, adding grain, trying to create an image on which we can have taken. This is the main format. Then there are a lot of images that we shot ourselves, with a small 16mm camera, a Bolex camera, the images of which look like archive footage, but that we shot ourselves. There are indeed archival images, images of anonymous amateurs. And then, there are images that we shot in 35 mm, because there were very complicated sets to capture digitally. So there were all these formats. All these formats create a flow. I hope that the viewer is caught up in a flood and doesn’t constantly wonder about what he sees… For me, it was a way of succeeding in creating a feeling of the time. I also think that the imagination we have of this period is the format of the film. Our imagination reads those years on film, its imprecision, its fragility… It’s the best way I’ve found to show and feel that era, rather than the very precise, luxuriant reconstruction, exhaustive…
The promise of this era was to realize, invent or reinvent oneself. Your film, is it also a call to our times today ?
Indeed, it was perhaps a promise, a kind of emancipation. A promise of emancipation or reinvention. Emancipation is a value that I deeply associate with the left. Perhaps this character embodies that too. She carries this thing with her: disinterestedness, connection, the possibility of emancipation.
In the film, the main character will end up with a small job in a library, but that doesn’t stop him from writing. The son does not shine at school, but that does not prevent him from flourishing by doing poetry. It seems very different from today’s world where everyone is categorized and socially pressured by brands and labels…
They are rather special characters too. I do not claim to paint a representative and exhaustive portrait of an average Parisian family. These are characters that I chose. Elisabeth writes, but in a very personal way. She keeps a diary, has no pretensions or literary vocation. She writes down her impressions of her life, her relationship with her children, what she is going through. On the other hand, his son has an aspiration as a writer. He is a young man who is taken at a time when everything is possible, from the beginning to the end of his adolescence. He sees the salvation of life probably through the love he will find, and perhaps through writing. He is someone who is not in touch with very material things.
Do you regret that there are no more night shows on the radio to give birth to the confessions of listeners ?
In general, I don’t have a nostalgic relationship to things. But, there was something very precious. These programs, I listened to them when I was a child. I was putting on my walkman, I was in bed, and then there were these voices. They were bridges, between the person who was alone at home and the testimonies of anonymous… Voices circulating, voices in the night, passengers of the night. There were links that were woven by chance. There was a form of communion. Several people scattered in several places of the country and sometimes even of the planet were able to hear this same voice at the same time. It was a somewhat mysterious communion that the atomization of today’s means of communication no longer allows. It has become something much more exposed, much more fragmented.