Days of Darkness Denys Arcand

Cannes Film Fest 2007–Denys Arcand's Days of Darkness is the closing night selection of the 60th Cannes Film Festival.

Origins and Inspiration for Days of Darkness

Arcand: With any film project, the beginning is a little bit strange; you never quite know where it comes from. At the time, I was doing thousands of interviews all over the world for The Barbarian Invasions and was not enjoying it. I started wondering, who would actually like to be in my shoes I began thinking about a guy who lives in the suburbs and would cut his right arm off to have this sort of attention, and would love to speak to reporters about himself. Out of this came the character of Jean Marc, who would see it as fun to be interviewed ,albeit in a fantasy life he would love to live , which has no basis whatsoever in reality. Thats how the story came at first, and I built on it from there.

Link of the Film to the First Two in the Trilogy

A: The Decline Of The American Empire was a film about the relationships between men and women crumbling. The Barbarian Invasions focused on a character dying of cancer, who is left with nothing but his friendships. With “Days of Darkness,” I wanted to look at a whole society disintegrating. The film skirts issues like the fear of pandemics and the aviary flu, road rage after people are stuck for hours in traffic, and the feeling of being trapped in meaningless work. In the case of Jean Marc and his job, he is stuck listening to people in extreme situations and there is nothing he can do to help. His wife, in one way, is everything we want the modern woman to be. She is dynamic and they have a beautiful house and family, but in the end they have no time to speak to each other. Jean Marcs whole life is becoming impossible to live in and he has to find a way out.

Satirical Tone

A: Tone in filmmaking comes from ones own perspective and style and who you are. This film is different in that we see the whole world of the film through one character, whereas the previous two films are ensemble pieces. Jean Marc is in every shot of the film and it is his crisis and adventure that we are following. DAYS OF DARKNESS is more radical, funnier, and darker. I had never used slapstick before and enjoyed using this in the film immensely, but at the same time the drama is darker and more somber than the previous two films. This film allowed me to push extremes, in both drama and comedy.

Casting Process

A: Marc is the most well known actor in Quebec. He has been on the stage and screen since the age of ten and comes from a prominent acting family. We never had the chance to work together previously as we had never managed to find the right project until DAYS OF DARNESS. He had exactly the look I was searching for; he looked like an unremarkable 45 year old man, who fit the character of Jean Marc perfectly.

View of Alienation

A: The film does, and in some cases does not, reflect my view of modern society. The whole scope of the film is true to my beliefs, but this is filtered through the eyes of the main character, Jean Marc. Personally, I think we are going towards another Dark Age. After the first Dark and Middle Ages and the fall of the Roman Empire, society crumbled for a period and there was a rise in faith and religious wars. I see this coming again in modern times. When we are in the film, however, the narrative is seen through they eyes of poor Jean Marc, who is simply trying to find a solution for himself.

Shooting the Film in Quebec

A: I think the bureaucracy we encounter in everyday life is in many ways universal. A personal example of this is found in the recent collaboration between the US and Canadian governments to issue passes for quick border crossing, which I applied for. I was sent a refusal letter with no reason for my rejection and when I wrote to Washington, D.C. to appeal this, I was essentially told that I had been declined for the sole reason that I was declined, and they would divulge nothing else for reasons of national security.

The particulars of Quebec–for example, the use of the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, which cost billions of dollars and now sits empty as the site of his office-is symbolic. In many countries, the government is involved in every step of your life, and this is something many of us encounter all the time.

Use of a Renaissance Fair

A: The use of this location was tied into my personal historical reasoning that we are heading towards a new Dark Ages , but also that all around the US, Canada and Europe , there are people that attend these fairs who want to live in these old times now. I traveled to one fair in particular, in Florida, which was fantastic. I was surrounded by men in full armor in 100-degree heat. Im sure this urge to return to the past means something, though Im sure it varies from person to person. I met an engineer at one fair, who had a very modern high tech job, who said the moments he spent at these fairs were the happiest in his life. I also met a woman who exclaimed that the only place she could find a man who would write her poetry -which she loved- was amongst the people she met at Renaissance Fairs. These events are very important to the people that attend them and provide a sort of refuge when normal life becomes unbearable. They provide a total escape and I think this is quite profound.

The Score

A: I was recommended the young French composer Phillipe Miller through our editor. He came to Montreal, saw the film, and loved it. We worked together to put the score together and I very much enjoyed working with him.

Jean Marc's Problems with Women

A: Jean Marc is a lonely man who can only make love in his dreams, but ultimately fails even in this realm. He openly confides in his work colleagues that his sole sexual activity is masturbation. In his fantasies he is a boyfriend of a beautiful movie star, a seducer of reporters and his female boss, all of whom are all fascinated by him. In realty, he cannot cope with his situation and in the end his only solution is to go away, alone. I think that this sort of alienation is quite common in men at a certain age. In pornographic films, the narrative is constructed within certain patterns, one being that the women in the film instantly want to make love to anyone, which in real life is never the case. In a way he lives in a fantasy universe based on these old pornographic themes, while he cannot relate at all to the real women in his life. We see all the women in the film through his eyes, which means we get a limited view of the full picture.

Resolution

A: The ending is an open road for Jean Marc. After the crisis of his departure, his wife and daughters come visit him and begin to rebuild bridges. I think that they will continue to come back to him and some sort of life will start again for them all. The film is not about Jean Marc leaving his wife; it is about him leaving his LIFE. He will become a different sort of man, and he will be able to see them in a better light and this in turn will allow them to see him more clearly as well.

Audience Impact

A: I will say, “Find a way out for yourself.” The film is not a recipe, Jean Marc finds peace in a world by the sea peeling apples, but you can find it anywhere. Lots of people have believed in lots of things in the last century, from democracy to communism, but I believe these ideals and theories have all fallen apart. My only advice is that we should all try and find our own way out of the shackles of modern society. I think things will end badly if we do not all find a personal peace of some nature.