“You’re together for 10-20 years, and then everything changes in just one or two days”
– We met with the Swiss director at Lecce to talk about his film which was shot in Apulia and which revolves around a couple who call everything into question following a minor incident
8 Days in August [+see also:
interview: Samuel Perriard
film profile] by Swiss director Samuel Perriard was presented as a Special Event in the 24th Lecce European Film Festival in Apulia, a region which this work enjoys a special connection with. The film was shot exclusively in Vieste, in the Gargano region, where the director and screenwriter (who recently co-directed the TV series Wilder and was second unit director on the Davos [+see also:
series profile] series) chose to set this story about a couple (German actors Julia Jentsch and Florian Lukas) who hit crisis point during a holiday with friends in southern Italy, when their son is involved in a minor incident. We spoke with the director about the movie while in Lecce.
Cineuropa: The film starts out like a thriller but then feels more like a family drama. How did this story come about?
Samuel Perriard: There was an incident in my own childhood when I was playing with a cat with some friends in the Swiss mountains. A man saw us and chased us through the woods, and then he hit one of the boys really hard. To begin with, the film was more of a thriller and a revenge story, but then we decided that the incident where the boy collapses felt more like the beginning of a change for everyone involved. Sometimes things happen quite quickly: I mean, you’re together for 10-20 years but then everything changes in one or two days. Obviously, changes happen before that, but you only start to see things clearly at a certain point in time.
In addition to a relationship crisis, your film explores a crisis within a long-term friendship.
It’s that time when your relationships and friendships fall apart all at once. Close relationships, like romantic relationships or the ones you have with your brother, father or your friend, are so powerful when they’re damaged. If a stranger acts in a way I don’t like, I’ll be angry, but then we go our separate ways. In a family, if you don’t solve your problems, there’s an ongoing clash, and I like the drama and emotions that come from that.
You’ve said that in your films, landscape plays a very important role. What was so special to you about the Apulian landscape?
I think landscape has a big impact on people and on wider society, on how we live together. We grow up in a certain kind of environment and then, after we’ve moved to another location, we tend to return to our original homes, even if they’re not all that pretty. For a drama like this, I liked the contrast between the paradisiacal setting and the horrible things that happen there. Originally, it was set on a lake in Switzerland, but as soon as I saw Vieste while scouting for locations, I knew that it was the right place to shoot.
Another unsettling aspect in the film is the presence of a group of soldiers training for war in this holiday setting. How did they find their way into the screenplay?
Again, I liked the contrast: we’ve got soldiers preparing for war in the very place the characters are spending their holiday. The army’s camp is really close to this paradise. I wrote the script far before the war in Ukraine and Israel; I trekked across the USA and met a lot of veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s more topical than ever now, but war has always been there. In Europe, after the war in the early Nineties, we thought we were pretty much safe and started to forget about it. But right now, it feels like we can’t live without war. It’s wrong on so many levels, but the harsh reality is that we’re too stupid as human beings to live together, so we fight one another.
And what can you tell me about Phil Collins? His presence seems to hover over this seaside destination. Why him?
All of his songs are about love and relationships, and this is another of the film’s layers. I also liked the fact that, sometimes, huge celebrities choose to live in small towns and that the locals know about it but they don’t talk about it, because tourists shouldn’t find out or they might try to track them down. It’s also meant to be symbolic: how to happily co-exist in love, friendship and in wider society is one of the world’s great unanswered questions.
Your next project is called Lupus. What’s it about?
It’s set in the Swiss mountains in a very remote place, with a shepherdess looking after a flock of sheep. There’s a wolf coming and she needs to get help, but when she travels down to the valley, she realises there’s been a huge, worldwide blackout. Society has been turned upside down and she has to protect her home, because people are coming. They want her sheep and her life, she’s at risk. She moved up into the mountains to find herself, but now wider society is joining her there: it’s quite dystopian. Lupus is currently in development and we’re on the lookout for funding. It’s already supported by the Zurich Film Fund. I’ll be working with Julia Jentsch again. But I have other projects in mind, too, and I’d like to come back to Italy soon, especially to Apulia.