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BERLINALE 2020 Berlinale Special

Anne Fontaine • Director of Night Shift

"The female character is the one who disrupts the routine – her own fragility leads her to reflect on the humanity of their task"


- BERLINALE 2020: We met up with French-Luxembourgish director Anne Fontaine as she presented her new film, Night Shift, in the Berlinale Special section

Anne Fontaine  • Director of Night Shift

We talked to Luxembourgish director Anne Fontaine, whose new film Night Shift [+see also:
film review
interview: Anne Fontaine
film profile
was presented in the Special Gala section of this year’s Berlinale. Starring Virginie Efira and Omar Sy, the film is an adaptation of the successful novel by French author Hugo Boris, published in 2016. The story portrays three police officers, a woman and two men, going about their daily routine at work. They are then confronted with a new situation that forces them to deal with their own feelings and convictions, rather than merely following a strict set of rules.

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Cineuropa: What did you like the most about the story that led you to adapt it for the screen?
Anne Fontaine:
I liked the dynamic between the three characters. I liked the fact that they have jobs that don’t oblige them to think, since they have to follow a clearly formulated set of rules. The female character is the one who prompts change and disrupts the routine. Her own fragility and vulnerability lead her to ask questions and reflect on the humanity of their task. She decides to read the file on the convict they have to escort to the airport in order to be deported. When she sees that he might be killed upon his arrival in his home country, she can’t accept that she will be contributing to it. I also liked the tender love story that is described here.

Did you have access to a real police department to prepare for the film?
Yes, I had the chance to get a glimpse into the workings of a police department thanks to a very helpful police officer. He is a tutor for new recruits, and he showed me around. I saw a real police canteen and was able to observe a bit of the police officers’ daily routine. That was very important for me, since the story of the movie starts from there.

What do you want the viewer to feel when he or she is watching the character of Virginie?
I hope it is possible to see how she is shocked by the absurdity of the task they are asked to accomplish. The confrontation that arises from it challenges her convictions and conscience. I wanted her sensitivity and courage to be visible.

How did you choose the music for the film?
I wanted to start with pop music and shift to classical music later on. The song “Elle a Les Yeux Revolver” [by Marc Lavoine and Fabrice Aboulker] is from the 1980s. With it, I try to express the feeling that up until that point in the film, things have not got that bad yet. Later, I chose Bach to underline the more serious situation that we see, so I wanted a metaphorical and spiritual kind of music for it.

Language is a very important component of the film. In much the same way as the three police officers, the viewer also doesn’t understand what the foreigner is saying. This situation could also be interpreted as a more universal one. Very often, we talk to each other, but without understanding one another. Have you experienced this on a personal level?
I’ve been more of an observer of this kind of situation. Often, it’s not even necessary for us not to speak the same language in order to fail to understand each other. Take married couples, for example: once, they used to speak the same language, to understand each other, but sometimes they reach a point where they are not able to communicate any more.

Did you know from the start that you wanted to have this specific cast for the film?
Yes, I chose them especially, and they were all very willing to participate after they’d read the script.

What kinds of reactions to the movie do you expect in France?
Well, we have already had a few, and I am happy that they have been positive. I hope we will continue like this.

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