Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner chats with Shalom Life about the award-winning movie.
What drew you to make 'Sarah’s key'?
"I read the book in March 2007, just after the French release, and fell in love with it. It was a great story that felt very personal, because I come from a Jewish background and lost part of my family during the Holocaust. It was also a great opportunity to bring a little known part of French history to a wide audience."
Have you gotten feedback from people who’ve read the book?
"People who read the book are usually happy with the movie, because it is very faithful."
What was the most challenging part of making the movie?
"It was challenging to have to deal with two periods of times. We worked a lot on the screenplay, to keep the story fluid and make sure Julia's and Sarah's story would resonate in the most effective way. Then I shot these two parts differently, to make sure the audience is never lost."
Was it difficult to find an actress who could play young Sarah?
"We were obviously anxious, because we had to find a little girl who would be able to play such a complex character. And without Sarah, there is no movie. François Ozon discovered Melusine Mayance when she was seven and hired her for his movie 'Ricky'. She is already a professional. She is an old actress in a child's body!"
How did you nab Kristin Scott Thomas to play Julia?
"Kristin has been living in Paris for 30 years, was married to a French man and has three French children. Her life is actually very close to Julia's and she was a natural choice. We sent her the script and I met her in New York. She really wanted to make a movie on that subject and she felt 'Sarah' was the perfect opportunity."
The film is very intense. What was the atmosphere like on set?
"It could be quite emotional, sometimes, as you can imagine... especially when Holocaust survivors were there with us."
'Sarah’s Key' has screened at a number of festivals and it even won the Audience Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Why do you think audiences around the world connect with the film?
"I think the movie has a very universal message, and everybody understands that. I am proud because it was one of my goals. But we could never have expected such a success all around the world. I also think the contemporary point of view is very interesting for a modern audience. It clearly shows the past is still affecting us."
What do you hope viewers take out of the movie?
"Our past, even the darkest hours, is precious. Because if we know how to learn from it, it gives us an opportunity to build ourselves a better future."
What’s next for you?
"My next movie, 'Dark Places,' is a thriller based on the book by Gillian Flynn. I hope to start shooting in February."
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life
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