Search, The (2014): Interview with Oscar-Winner Michel (The Artist) Hazanavicius

The Search, the new film by Michel Hazanavicius, Oscar-winner of The Artist, world premieres today at the 2014 Cannes Film Fest.

Impact of Winning the Oscar for The Artits?

Hazanavicius: The project of The Search had been there for a long time, but seemed very complicated. Without the Oscar, it would clearly have been impossible to get the necessary budget.  The Search is a film on the edge of the market, on the border of what’s achievable, which is to say precisely where I like to be as a director.

Second Chechen War

In 2004, I coproduced and co-wrote Rwanda: History of a Genocide, a documentary by Raphael Glucksmann, David Hazan, and Andre Mezerette. Rafael isthe son of Andre Glucksmann, one of the very few french intellectuals who tried to alter public opinion about chechnia. That was I was made aware of the Chechen situation.

Motivation

I wanted to make a film about chechnia, not least to oppose the absurd theory according to which all chechens are terrorists. but i didný know how to approach such a story, only that it would have to be a war film.

Hollywood Influences:

I was still in the thinking stages when nicolas saada showed me fred zinnemann’s The Search, made in 1948.  It’s a melodrama  that tells the story of a small boy who gets out of the camps and meets a GI soldier (played by Montgomery Clift) amidst the ruins of Berlin.

Zinnemann’s The Search

The documentary part, the solemn voice-over, the Christ-like mother, the speed at which the child learns English, sll of this has dated.  We needed to find different ways of teling the story.  I also wanted to widen the film’s scope.  I did not want to restrict myself to a single POV.

I couldn’t show that the Chechens are not a terrorist people, while simultaneously depicting all Russians as Chechen-kilers. But I did want to show how systems can crush people in order to turn them into killers, and that’s the story I added.

Sources of Inspiration

Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, of course, for the making of a killer by the army.  But also, and may be more so, One Soldier’s War in Chechnya, Arkady Babchenko’s book, a description of life in the Mozdok barracks told with sharp analysis by a real soldier.