Filming poetry is not something often done. The tragic theme of Robert Boublil’s poem made it even harder for us. The challenge was to find the appropriate tone, to highlight the force of the poem and to sublimate the text by using images. The risk was to not find the right manner of doing justice to all of the various emotions which converge and clash within this poem.
First, the innocence, felt through the expression of a very young child, who speaks to us using his own words about a world which is crashing before his own eyes. Naïve words, but nonetheless words which say everything and with a simplicity of which adults are no longer capable. Then there is the melancholy, when Maurice talks about his home, his family, his passion for drawing. A cherished past which is brought to life for a few moments through the magic of cinema. Followed by the fear, the panic in the face of the violence of others which makes no sense in the eyes of a small boy. And at the end there is the horror, the dread, the unspeakable.
All of these moments of extreme emotions experienced by the child had to be transmitted to the screen, all the while paying respect to the dignity and memory of little Maurice and of all of the children of Vel d’Hiv. And also respecting the imaginary and the beauty which poetry conveys and the universe it creates. We chose moderation, restraint and decency. The only manner, in our eyes, which allowed us to present this poem to the viewer without adding violence to an already violent text. A child’s hand playing the violin, a ball in a playground, a furtive glance towards the camera which briefly captures the viewer. Images of two children whose paths cross for a short time.
Each of them comes from a world unknown to the other. But children, wherever they come from, understand each other in a glance. A child’s universe crashes into the world of horror. And in the end, barbarity prevails. This film is intended to be witness to this tragic memory. But it also says that there will always be another child to bring to the world his innocence and joy of living.