Answers to Miguel Soler


I’ll try to explain how I work on each of my film. The problem is it is always a different process… Even if there are obviously similarities…

(Your first two steps (“preparation”, “incubation”) are quite good. I’m always first confronted to a “problem” then I need time to rest with this problem. After I’m not sure about your concepts: “intimacion” and “illuminacion”. I never “feel” closed to a solution. There is an idea or not. This kind of in-between step to “feel” does not exist. Or it is so unconscious that I can’t be conscious about it!)

I’m always looking for something. It’s like I can’t stop to be curious. I’m always going from one question to another. I’m always looking for some kind of answers. Trying to understand what are humans. Moreover why humans could be so disgusting. I know that humans could be great, creative, gentle, etc. But they could also decide to kill, to destroy, to devastate… And they could also accept to be destroyed, to live in an inhuman world, to not react against what should be fought… They accept to not live a life that could be wonderful. It is quite naïve, for sure, but it is the motor of my work.

As I cant’ understand that simple idea of why humanity avoid happiness, I look for some answers. Answers I know that are impossible to find! But, there is also a politic goal. It is not the idea to go through disasters and destruction, to self-pity or to just claim that the world is unfair… But pessimism could be a way to go to action. It could be a way to change the anger against those disasters in energy to change them or to make them never happen again (but not as a mantra). It is also a mean to appreciate life, as life is really fragile. As westerners, only few of us should complain but every does…

Then, I am always studying, reading books, watching films. About violence, war, history, revolution… And sometimes, I met a new “problem”. Something I really can’t understand. And usually, then, it is the start of a process that could bring me to a film. To make a film is a lot of work, a lot of time. For me it is like a way to study more deeply the “problem” I met.

It seems I have two ways to go to those problems.

One is to discover something in a book. For example, the first step to go to Nijuman no borei was to read a book of a Hibakusha (a Hiroshima survivor). And I discovered for the first time what really happened after the bombing that was more horrible that what I was teach in school. I was so hurt that I spent months and years to read everything I could on the topic, to watch the few existing movies etc. The idea itself of the film arrive latter, when at one point, it was impossible for me to learn more. In fact, even with so much books and films, I realized it would always be impossible for me to understand it. For sure, I will never accept it was done, but moreover I can’t understand. Then a film could happen.

The second ways to go to those “problems” is to see images, whatever if it is pictures or films, that I couldn’t understand. There, there is several ways to not understand. I could not understand the images because I have not the historical background to understand them. Or it is simply because those images shouldn’t exist. And sometimes it is the repetition of the same images that creates the “problem” (it is for that reason there is often in my film so much repetitions).

All my films could be seen as personal attempts to organize my thoughts. And also they are a way to confront the audience to those questions that I live with so many times.

About the use of archives, it is important to say that I never try to make films that are “educational”, that give to the audience the necessary background to understand the images I give them to see. The idea is to give back to the audience the images I discovered but to show them in the way I myself saw them, to make visible the problematic side of them. As wrote Aby Warburg about his own work, I try to make “ghost stories for adults”.

To be more precise now, I will go film by film (but I won’t wrote about all of them).


Dies Irae

After We Are Winning Don’t Forget, I wanted to make a film about dead civilian, who died because of war (bombing and so ever), who were raped, tortured… I spend hours on each of this picture. Each of them should be a film. Each of them was “enough”, was “complete”, as each of them could represent all the horror of what is war. And it was impossible for me to edit them…

During my researches, I saw many pictures of memorials, cemetery etc… Often in those pictures, there is a road, a way to pass through the space, a path to mourn… Then was the beginning of the “roads” animation. I decided to make a movie that will be a metaphor of the journey of someone who will suddenly die without expecting it. For me there are two layers, first as audience we are the one travelling, but at the end, with Auschwitz, we became witness, and no more the traveller. I really like this kind of philosophical twist. We are the survivors, and we need to take care of the memory of the past.

The technical part was really complicate, but not so interesting. All the images are quite easy, not problematic. The only thing I could say is that I had to make the picture clear of humanity in the first part of the film. I retouched all the pictures to empty them of human traces as car, house, people… To created some kind of poetical spaces.


Even If She Had Been A Criminal…

I just want to tell you this film is perhaps the only one I did I made because I “discovered” those images of the shave women. I knew about the history, but I never saw the archives. When I saw them, I was really impressed. They are so horrible.

I spend one year to think about it; to be sure to be able to make a film with them. And one day, because I was pissed of by another repressive action of French policeman against clandestine people, because I was so hanger against the country I live in, that I decided to used those images to make a contemporary film about France…


Under Twilight

I made this film to answer to a personal problem I have. I used a lot a picture for war and I watch a lot of those images. And they are fascinating. That is the problem. How to find beautiful, images of war… Then I decided to go straight to this idea and I decided to make a movie about it. A film presenting those wonderful images of destruction. Even if I make them appear differently, they are even more beautiful in the film.
Whatever if I decided to use this kind of flicking to “broke” the images, to make them more complex, they are still amazing… This film is for me uncomfortable. But I make it for that reason!


Nijuman no borei

My mean idea was to make a film about the memory of this event: why me, as a Westerner that received education, knew nothing about the reality of Hiroshima?

I found the Dome later, when I was looking pictures of the city. For me it was the symbol I looked for. A place were present en past are mixed together.

I went for several weeks in Hiroshima to collect the pictures. Those researches were important not only for a question of material but also as a source of knowledge. I never went there, I didn’t know about the city and how it was reconstructed. So to see so many pictures, to look for any detail of urbanism, to talk to people, help me to understand precisely how everything was built around the dome, the different problems of the reconstruction (as when they decided to put the people away to construct the museum…). For this film, as the other one, even if there is no texts, no voice over, for me it is important that there is no historical mistake or approximation. I want my films to be precise. I don’t want to play with the reality, even if I “play” with the representations of this reality.


The Barbarians

I always know how my film will be. I always decided the editing before starting it. For sure, I couldn’t be too much precise about the rhythm and some details, but I have always in mind the draft of the editing, how I will process. For this film, the idea of turning around was there since the first writing I done about the project. And for the other film it is always the same.

I spent so many times to watch the archives… And the idea of the editing always comes from the images themselves.

My idea was to confront to different kind of images (there they are coming for ones of the few recollections I do always… I always pick up picture of demo, of portrait, and some other things). Images of order and images of “dissensus”. I wanted to adapt an idea of the book of Brossat I quote at the end. For him Politics have to do with “dissensus”, with the fact of disagreement, the fact of violence. What we called in our so-called democracy, is a erasing of the violent process, is about consensus.

My choice of editing came from the pictures. The first kind of images was presenting people in lines. It was obvious for me that I will use this way of line editing. It allowed me to present different kind of images in the same times. To link different kinds of “consensus”, politicians, army, family and some more playful moments of life. It help me to integrated the audience in the film as we are all part of some groups…

The second kind of images should break the first system and be presented alone, for themselves.

In all my films there is this kind of moment of “twist”. Those twists are the moment where the questions popped up. As I don’t give explanation, as those moments are “unclear”, the audience should think by itself. There for me it is really a political act. To give back to the “audience” its own liberty to think about what I present to him. Even if this liberty could be felt as uncomfortable for some of them!


Jean-Gabriel Périot