Farewell to the Night (L’adieu à la nuit) press conference with Catherine Deneuve, Kacey Mottet Klein, André Téchiné and Stéphane Bak
Berlinale aficionados who diligently watch the live streams of the festival’s press conferences might be familiar with the correspondent for African Refugee News. The journalists present certainly know him. Without fail, this dapper older gentleman stands up and asks a question at every press conference he attends, although the use of the word “question” might be questionable. He directs a meandering, respectful comment about the film at the assembled cast and crew, who all wait patiently for him to eventually finish, before picking a random thread from his statement and commenting on that. It wasn’t quite that way at the press conference for Farewell to the Night. His ambling comments were interrupted by an angry “Hurry up and finish your question!” shouted from the back of the room. He turned and called back, “I’m 66. I’m not your son!”. Waiting patiently for him to finish was the star of Farewell to the Night, the iconic Catherine Deneuve. If a photo had been taken of Deneuve, her director André Téchiné, and co-stars at that moment, it could have accurately been captioned, “awkward.” Deneuve plays Muriel, who is visited by her grandson Alex (Kacey Mottet Klein), who is supposedly en route to Canada. She is taken aback to learn that Alex has not only converted to Islam, but has become radicalised and is in fact secretly planning to travel to Syria to become a jihadist.
Journalistic skirmishes aside, Deneuve spoke to the assembled press, describing her character as, “Certainly an intelligent woman, but she’s also very tolerant. She doesn’t judge, she’s someone who tries to understand”. The actress continued: “I had to try to listen, to try to understand the character. I had to try to understand my grandson. There were moments where it was more difficult. I had a great deal of compassion for the character, who in the end has to decide what she is going to do – what on earth she is going to do about this child. It seems a really Shakespearean situation if you ask me, having to make that kind of decision. It’s really hard to say – I was involved in the character, in the story. I was very touched and very moved by the relationship between all of them.”
Actor Kacey Mottet Klein spoke about his own brushes with attempted radicalisation, saying, “When I was 14, I used to hang out with a bunch of Muslim boys, and one of them somewhat indoctrinated me. He told me all about Islam, and wanted to convert me. The whole point was to get involved in this gang – I wanted to be part of this group. I didn’t really know anything about the religion. I didn’t have any background in the religion at all. I just wanted to belong, to be part of the group. It impressed me, and in a sense, frightened me. So, that’s what I can tell you about my own personal experience. It lasted for two days, and after that I wanted to be able to continue with my smoking and drinking.”
French auteur Téchiné discussed his film’s depiction of those who believe in eternal life after death. “I think the heart of the film is … there is this sort of questioning, and I like to talk about things as precisely as possible. You see this party at Youssef’s house. He’s the colleague, the work partner of Muriel [Deneuve]. Everyone dances, drinks together, and it’s a very joyful evening, and you can feel this very strong attachment to life. And in parallel to that, you see the (religious) ceremony, the preaching, and there’s a sense of detachment, of turning one’s back on life amongst those young people. They’re renouncing life, and that’s of course because they believe in another life, a better life after death. I found that extremely compelling, and very disturbing as well.”
Photo: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.