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“I wanted to revisit Belle and place her initiation process at the centre of the story”

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Christophe Gans • Director

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- Cineuropa took advantage of the 64th Berlinale to chat to Christophe Gans, who has directed a new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast

Christophe Gans • Director

Cineuropa took advantage of the 64th Berlinale to have a chat with French director Christophe Gans, who has made a new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast [+see also:
trailer
making of
film profile
]
. The film was presented out of competition.

Cineuropa: How did you become so fascinated by this story?
Christophe Gans: First of all, I’m a big animal rights activist. If only for this reason, I’ve always been moved by the story. And then, I greatly admire the adaptation of Beauty and the Beast by Jean Cocteau, which I saw for the first time when I was five years old. That film is like a dream, and it’s still like that when I watch it today. But after re-reading the story, I realised that Cocteau had only adapted a very small part of it and that, above all, it primarily focused on the Beast and its relationship with the camera. Of course, it included the relationship with Jean Marais, and the fact that he could also identify with the Beast, but the fact remains that Belle is a secondary character in his adaptation. I wanted to revisit Belle and place her initiation process, her transition from a child to a woman, at the centre of my story. Léa Seydoux embodies these two aspects perfectly – and that’s quite a rare quality to have. We made a family film, but one that can obviously be interpreted in two ways, which is evident in many of the scenes and graphical elements, such as the mirror that is clearly shaped like a vulva…

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Were you influenced by the Disney animated film?
When it came out in 1993, I was too old for it to influence me, and it’s an adaptation that I don’t particularly like. It’s too clean. It’s all very middle of the road, without even the slightest deviation… However, we have kept in the dance scene from that version because for everyone involved, it seemed unthinkable to make a new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast without including the dance – it is still the most striking image in Disney’s animated version.

Why did you choose to make things harder for yourself with Eduardo Noriega, whose voice subsequently had to be dubbed?
Vincent Cassel is pretty unique in France. I needed an actor who had the same kind of vibe in order to create an enemy worthy of him. We had toyed with the idea of having the Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio, and we finally settled on Eduardo Noriega, who, in his own way, is a little like Spain’s answer to Vincent Cassel. He did all of his scenes in French, but we decided that his accent was a little too pronounced for his character, and we eventually dubbed his voice. Eduardo totally agreed with that decision, and it doesn’t take anything away from his performance or charisma.

What is the split between blue screen and real sets in the film?
Aside from the sets that were built for the dining room and Belle’s bedroom, everything was generated digitally. The only sequence that we shot on location was the chase scene in the forest. The colours were very important. I’m a big fan of the British film Black Narcissus (1947) by Michael Powell. We drew a lot of inspiration from Jack Cardiff’s photography in that film: strong, organic colours in Technicolor and palettes that, at the end of the day, really reflect Belle’s psyche.

In your opinion, is the European blockbuster ready to compete with the Hollywood blockbuster?
Beauty and the Beast’s budget is that of a major European comedy. My film cost €35 million, and Dany Boon’s new comedy cost €32 million. We are able to compete with the American blockbusters – all the more so because our films cost a lot less. This implies a meticulous preparation process with people who know what they’re doing, and which we have here in Europe. We must therefore be able to repatriate our franchises, our fairy-tales, Greek mythology or the tales of Jules Verne, for example, in order to make them into European blockbusters. As soon as I announced that I was making Beauty and the Beast, Hollywood announced it was making two other adaptations of the story at the same time: one by Guillermo Del Toro and starring Emma Watson, and the other one from the Disney studios. Today, my film is in the cinemas, whereas those two American projects still haven’t started up. Those versions cost too much money and take forever to see the light of day. In Hollywood, a film like that costs $200 million, which means that the studios need $600 million to recoup their investment. No American film does that well at the box office in its own country. Beauty and the Beast only needs three million admissions because it is not as expensive to finance. We’re already not that far off one million tickets sold in France in the first week of screening, and the film has been sold everywhere…

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