Sylvain Desclous, director: “There are crazy characters in politics that I never tire of”
A former student of political science and literature, the just fifty-year-old Sylvain Desclous later turned to the cinema. great hopes, in theaters from Wednesday March 22, is his fourth feature film after Seller (2016), a subsidiary fiction with Gilbert Melki and Pio Marmaï, followed by documentaries hard skin (2020) and The Campaign of France (released in 2022), both shot in Preuilly-sur-Claise (Indre-et-Loire).
Politics and power are rarely sources of inspiration for French cinema. You, on the contrary, after “La Campagne de France”, where you had followed the municipal campaign in Preuilly-sur-Claise, a village of Indre-et-Loire, you plunge again into the heart of this world with “Great hopes”. What inspires you so much?
I have always thought that there are, in the political class, men and women who can be romantic, Shakespearean, much more human, fragile and complex than these strange animals driven by ambition alone, as they are often represented . There are characters of madness that I never tire of. Sarkozy, moreover, said one day that, to play politics, you needed one box more or one box less! But I’m not the only one interested in it. Pierre Schoeller, with The Exercise of the State (2011), or Nicolas Pariser, with Alice and the Mayor (2019), have paved the way, and politics is no longer the great absence of French cinema.
You portray a deputy, a minister and two young members of the ministerial cabinet, all fictitious but very realistic. Have you taken certain elected officials as models?
I did not land in unknown territory, but I was missing a lot of elements. Some more technical: how does a firm work, how is a decision made? Others that are deeper: how do you navigate a harsh and brutal world, how do you manage to nourish yourself intellectually and produce thought while juggling an overloaded agenda? So I interviewed a lot of “real” deputies, ministers, advisers: the former deputy and minister Thomas Thévenoud, who plays in the film; former deputy, minister and now businessman Arnaud Montebourg; Benjamin Griveaux, when he was still spokesperson for Emmanuel Macron.
And, with Emmanuelle Bercot, who plays the MP in great hopes, we met Aurélie Filippetti, Minister Marlène Schiappa and the former Deputy Secretary General of the Elysée, Anne de Bayser. And then, I read almost all the books written by former ministers. Especially those from civil society, such as Frédéric Mitterrand (Playtime (Robert Laffont, 2013)), Francoise Nyssen (Pleasure and necessity (Stock, 2019)) Or French comedy. Things seen at the heart of power (Fayard, 2014), by Georges-Marc Benamou. We took a little from each. The magnetism, the verticality, the very structured speech, but also the fragility and the wounds that remain.
You have 37.38% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.