Jean Dujardin and Cédric Jimenez, the star and director of French Paris terror attack film Novembre, have said they did not want to portray the police who caught the attackers as “heroes” but were aiming for an uber-realistic representation of a “deeply secret” department.
Speaking at a Cannes press conference the day after Novembre’s premiere, Jimenez said his mission was to show how the anti-terrorist unit experienced five “awful days” during which officers were tasked with a “huge responsibility.”
“The idea was not to turn them into heroes,” he added, flanked by cast and crew. “Even though the situation was resolved, there are only losers: the many people who died, the witnesses who are upset forever, the police officers who resigned because it was such a terrible hardship. In this kind of event, there are no winners.”
Dujardin, who also led Jimenez’s 2014 pic The Connection, concurred with his director and said his aim portraying lead Fred was to “focus on the event as we were plunged totally into the situation.”
“We didn’t have time to work on their psychology, we were working as a group and you really sense that in the film,” he explained. “These people aren’t heroes but what they did was a heroic act. It’s like a pyramid, the whole group is heroic.”
Also starring Sandrine Kiberlain as Héloise and The French Dispatch breakout Lyna Khoudri, Novembre charts the five days after the devastating November 2015 attacks on the Bataclan concert venue and other places in Paris, which left more than 100 people dead. Five days on, the suspected lead operative Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed in a police raid along with two others.
Portraying the events realistically was of paramount importance and Dujardin said police consultants and anti-terrorism officers spent a lot of time on set.
“While we were doing shooting scenes, they told us ‘go faster,’ ‘go more slowly’ or what have you,” he said. “Given the event, we wanted things to be extremely realistic and to have the right tempo.”
Although the event was highly traumatic, writer Olivier Demangel said he wanted to “tell the tale of this traumatic event without talking about ‘traumatism’ itself,” which Jimenez described as “dignified.”
Jimenez added: “I wanted to adopt a humble approach and be sober in what I portray. I didn’t want to stand above the subject but remain very simple while keeping the right pace and a total immersion in events.”
The trial of the Bataclan suspects who are still alive is currently taking place but Jimenez shrugged off any notion that his film will prejudice the case and said it will likely premiere once the trial is over.
“The trial and my film are two completely different things,” he added. “What you see in the film is not even one-tenth of the legal proceedings, it only tells of five days.”