“I wanted to make a film about barbarism”: Bertrand Mandico on Conann
Conann is the latest cinematic adventure from visionary French director Bertrand Mandico (The Wild Boys), showing during Cannes Film Festival 2023. Using Robert E Howard’s character from Conan the Barbarian as a jumping-off point (but taking no reference from John Miliu’s 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring movie), he takes a familiar story and twists it into new forms. The fantasy epic, as such, invites viewers on a time-bending odyssey across eras and mythologies, through a universe populated with fantastical creatures, to the darkest corners of the human soul. We follow a gender-flipped Conann in consequential reincarnations, played in turn by various actresses, each betraying and killing their younger self, evolving and mutating in the process. The underworld dog, Rainer (frighteningly yet brilliantly brought to screen), is a guide of sorts and, while Conann becomes less human as she transforms, Rainer becomes less demonic, challenging our preconceptions of the characters. Ultra camp, deliciously subversive, with a solid onslaught of low-fi gore, sex and violence, this is cinema at its most avant-garde, testing its audience’s tolerance for extremes in its exploration of barbarism, ageing and betrayal – no doubt a cult classic in the making.
The Upcoming sat down with the filmmaker during the festival to hear more about the conceptual genesis of Conann, the challenges faced while shooting in an old steel factory in Luxembourg, and the director’s intention to offer his actresses roles beyond the conventional to redress persisting imbalances. He shared how, amidst the myth and the madness, Mandico invites his audience to find the romanticism within his cinematic hellscape.
Conann does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Conann here: