Why De Grace couldn't film in the port of Le Havre

Why De Grace couldn’t film in the port of Le Havre

“Frankly, it was heartbreaking,” director Vincent Maël Cardona and co-creator Baptiste Fillon explain to Première, revealing that the sequences on the docks were filmed in Antwerp.

Arte unveils its major black series this Thursday evening Of Gracewhich tells a family drama within the community of dockers in Le Havre, faced with ever-increasing pressure from drug traffickers. Maxime Crupaux And Baptiste Fillon imagined this strong story, boosted by its larger-than-life setting, admirably filmed by Vincent Maël Cardona (the director of Magnetic). Except that they didn’t really have access to the port of Le Havre, and were forced to film docks in Belgium. For Première, they talk about this “heartbreaking”.

PREMIERE: Where did the idea of ​​making a series of dockers come from?
BAPTISTE FILLON : In fact, we first wanted to do a series on Le Havre. It’s vast… But quickly, we said to ourselves that we had to do something around the port. We were initially focused on tugboats, which leave the port, which go to sea, etc. And then we looked for a profession with its codes, to introduce to spectators. The dockers, it seemed obvious to us! It’s a closed corporation, a community with difficult working conditions, and which was perfect for consolidating the family drama that we were imagining.

How did you inform your narration about this world of dockers?
BAPTISTE FILLON : Finding out about this world is not easy. My father was a sailor, my mother’s uncle is a dock worker, so it’s a world that is not completely foreign to me. But when you go to knock on the door of the union hall to ask questions, it remains closed. It is a form of working aristocracy, which has closed in on itself to resist the spirit of the times. In Le Havre, the dockers are jealous, but they are also loved. They are also the iconic pride of the port and therefore of the city. It’s a fairly complex social position.
VINCENT MAËL CARDONA: Yes, because working-class society has gained dearly in recent years, but they still have power. They weigh in on the balance of power and that scares a lot of people. As a result, they also represent a form of pride for the working world in general, everywhere in France.

The port is above all a setting of crazy cinematic power…
VINCENT MAËL CARDONA: It’s clear. What we like about crime fiction is its tragic dimension, as with Scorsese, as with Coppola, as with James Gray. Greek tragedy behind the scenes. It is man confronting forces beyond him. He is the man crushed in the face of hubris, in the face of excess. The industrial port of Le Havre represents exactly that, visually: we have this little guy, next to a container ship. There is something very impressive physically. For us, for cinema, it’s incredibly evocative, it’s gold for a director. We immediately understand that man is carried away by this world he has built. You only have to film a worker next to a container ship to understand it.

Were you able to turn easily in the port of Le Havre?
VINCENT MAËL CARDONA: No, we couldn’t actually. Because the dockers are fed up with the port of Le Havre being associated with Cocaine and trafficking. And we can understand them. So they did not want to participate in such a project, dealing with this subject. Except that we are not the origin of this stereotype which already exists. It exists, with or without the series. What we can do, conversely, thanks to the time of fiction, is to create three-dimensional dockworker characters, to show people what it is like to be a dockworker who is a victim of drug trafficking. . Let us understand its reality.

So where did you film?
VINCENT MAËL CARDONA: We were able to film wherever we wanted in Le Havre, but not on the docks! It was not possible. So, we shot these sequences in the port of Antwerp, in Belgium. It is a port which must be 5 times the size of that of Le Havre. There, we had this possibility… Of course it upset us, because we are attached to Le Havre, especially Baptiste, who was born there. We would have loved it… Honestly, it was heartbreaking to see the port right next door, its beauty… Afterwards, the docks look like docks. There are container ships, cranes etc… Whether in Antwerp or elsewhere in the world, it’s the same visual.

We feel that there is a lot of frustration…
BAPTISTE FILLON: Yes, a huge frustration, because behind this port, in the scenery, there is the Seine, the Pont de Normandie, the Saint-Joseph church… When we write, we have all these images in mind . And then we would have liked to participate with them, to show with them the complexity of their lives. Because the pressure from traffickers on dockworkers really exists today. There was even, while we were filming, a white march in memory of a dockworker murdered in this context… Perhaps the subject was too sensitive at the time we made the series.

Antwerp or Le Havre, how do you film an industrial port, as a director?
VINCENT MAËL CARDONA : It’s very complicated ! But it’s also an incredible playground. These container parks are quite fascinating, visually. There is an image of Tetris, from Lego, which sounds like a huge symbol of globalization! The container itself has become a unit of measurement! Filming that is exciting. So, with my ops director, Brice Pancot, we had fun among cranes, tractors, we put cameras everywhere… Conversely, it was a very constrained shoot, because it was padlocked by permissions. Real dockers are constantly unloading. The port does not pause while filming! As a result, we can only shoot in very supervised locations and slots.

What does the series say about unionism?
BAPTISTE FILLON: That poses a great question, around resistance to what we are experiencing, to a world order that is sweeping us away. A world created by humans, but beyond us. The beast has come out of our loins and is devouring us. How do we resist? Why do we resist? For which company? This is what seemed fascinating to us about the dockers! It’s the pebble in the middle of the stream. They are forced to come together to resist the tidal wave. To do a little history, you should know that the social achievements of 1936 come from there. All this was born in Le Havre. My grandfather spoke to me about it with tears in his eyes. It is a real popular bastion of the struggle. But for all that, this is not a political series.

Finally, if you had to summarize the series in one genre…
BAPTISTE FILLON: It’s a dark series with dramatic density. Obviously a raw thriller. We are in a movement, a quest for truth, something that goes beyond investigation. There is even a form of mysticism. The title invites that. We can talk about dark mystical thrillers if you want (laughs)!

From Grace, six episodes to watch on Thursdays February 8 and 15 on Arte and already in full on Arte.tv.

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