Post: “The Last Ashes”: an interview with Loic Tanson, director of the film nominated for an Oscar by Luxembourg


Presented out of competition at the 2023 Noir Festival, The Last Ashes is the film with which Luxembourg is introducing himself to the Oscars. The director’s name is Loic Tanson, and he is making his first feature film. We interviewed him in Milan and asked him to tell us something about his not-so-Western Western.

One of the gems of the 33rd edition Noir at the festival it was a film halfway between a Western, a revenge film and a noir, with which Luxemburg is introducing himself to the Oscars in the hope that the Academy will include it among the five candidates for Best International Film. When it was cast, it had not yet been released in theaters, and the director, what’s his name Loïc Tansonhe couldn’t believe his ears, primarily because The last ashes this is his first feature film, but fortunately every now and then the wheel turns, even if in the case of this story, set in 1938, it was a matter not of luck but of talent.

The last ashes it’s something that’s never been seen on film before: a dark tale that combines local folklore with other ideas, a celebration of female strength and a tribute, perhaps unwittingly, to the world’s most claustrophobic cinema. Carl Theodor Dreyer.
When we told the director that the first part of his film was shot in black and white, he reminded us The Passion of Joan of Arc, he widened his eyes, smiled shyly, and then thanked me profusely. He is still not used to compliments and, above all, to the fact that after many years of working as a journalist and film critic, he has found another language with which to express what is inside him.
The script is also his work (and a certain Frederic Zeimet) and the story centers on a woman who returns to the village where she grew up, enduring the oppression of her family Graffto take revenge for the wrongs caused.

Let’s interview Loïc Tanson in the lobby of the Hotel De la Ville in Milan, away from the madding crowds that the Christmas markets attract. We ordered tea and, with a cup warming our hands, listened to him once: “The film was born from an idea of ​​my producer. Claude Waring– he tells us, – “He has been working in cinema for 30 years and has long dreamed of producing a Western in Luxembourg. I consider myself very lucky that I had the opportunity to become a director and write a script. So at first there was only a desire to cover the genre, but there was no story or characters, so we decided first to set the story in the period when Luxembourg became independent, after which we thought about breaking the rule of the classic western: a lone hero who suddenly comes to a remote village and wreaks havoc on its life inhabitants, a society where men dictate the laws, etc. It was important to us that the story had a modern twist, even though we were living in the nineteenth century, and the terrible family was born out of the need to make the story relevant. Graff. I grew up with my mother, two sisters and grandmother, and when they ask me to talk about character Unaor from Mary and from Sidonie, I answer that I don’t even remotely imagine what it means to be a woman, but this did not stop me from observing women and appreciating their strength since childhood. In Westerns, the men are usually fearless, and the women are either prostitutes or naive, helpless and often irrational creatures. I wanted to break that order, and so I created a strong female character, but at the same time very vulnerable, because she was not yet sure of her place in the world. The last ashes born with Una, Mary AND Sidonie. The rest came later.

So, do you agree with those who say women are warriors because men work twice as hard to get what they want…

I have a three-year-old daughter, and since becoming a father, I’ve changed a few things in the script. The last ashes. In any case, I completely agree with you: women are warriors. They became this way out of necessity over a period of time, and this is what I wanted to include in the film, showing that in order to break out of their state of both psychological and physical subjugation, they, paradoxically, must use the same weapons as do men. That’s why the film has violence at the end, because it was important for me to show that violence requires more violence. This is not good. Indeed, this is one of the tragedies of humanity. To stop violence, sometimes violence must be used, and the absurdity of this mechanism is exactly what I wanted to convey in the film.

We’ve talked about the Western with its clichés, but The Last Ash has several other suggestions: a thirst for revenge, death, and iconography that references ogres, witches…

When I started writing, I realized that it was necessary to mix genres and not just have one. We couldn’t limit ourselves to Westerns. My country has its own folklore and mythology that I could not ignore. Therefore, I opted for a fairy-tale, almost magical component, which is very personal to me. I grew up listening to and reading a lot of fairy tales that actually had nothing to do with Disney fairy tales, but were more like brothers’ fairy tales. Grimm, which are often full of blood and do not have a happy ending. My film contains elements of these fairy tales, which I tried to harmoniously mix with a western.

Why did you decide to shoot the first part of the film in black and white and in a small format?

When I started writing the script, I realized that I needed to avoid flashbacks because they really increase the tension, but I didn’t want there to be big surprises or shocking things in the film. I wasn’t interested in the turns because The last ashes feelings and emotions are more important. I wanted the audience to get to know the little girl at the beginning of the film, become attached to her and be on her side. First 25 minutes The last ashes they are sort of a prologue or a movie in themselves, and I chose black and white because I wanted the beginning to be very expressive. My intention was to talk about a world without color, and the great thing about cinema is that it gives you the tools to express any mood. In terms of changing the format, it was important to me that there was a strong sense of claustrophobia. I wanted the little girl to feel lost in this world, and the camera should be her gaze, a gaze that does not understand everything, that does not notice everything. I also wanted her to appear locked in the frame, trapped in the image. This part The last ashes it contrasts a lot with the western part, so I used cinemascope and color.

How did you first get involved in acting in a feature film?

I enjoy working with the cast and crew. I respect everyone’s work and I like it when collective efforts produce something unexpectedly beautiful. When I direct an actor, I know exactly what I don’t want, but I have yet to learn to understand what exactly I want. But deep down, actors know this, they know that part of their job is to make the character believable, and it’s up to them to give it a body, a face, and a voice. I believe that if the characters in my film had been played by other actors, they would probably have been different, because on the set I allowed each actor to put a piece of themselves, their emotional baggage into the character, and each shared theirs with others, and the effect was amazing , because together we grew creatively and gave ourselves time, even on set, to explore the characters. Sometimes being on set can be stressful because it doesn’t take long to fall behind on filming. We said to ourselves, “Let’s take as much time as we need,” obviously respecting working hours. However, I had to find solutions to problems that arose from time to time, and I think everyone felt at ease and really gave their best.

This festival celebrates noir in its various forms, and when noir becomes thriller and horror, fear takes center stage. So I ask you: what are you afraid of?

The list of my fears is long, so long that if I listed them all, we would find ourselves spending an endless amount of time sitting on this couch. It’s not really specific things that scare me, and that makes me think that people are truly special creatures if they can be afraid without knowing exactly what. We may be very afraid of something precisely because we do not know it thoroughly or because we suspect that it might frighten us. For me, there are two types of fear: physical fear, the kind that causes your body to react and that you can learn to control. Then psychological fear arises. One of the physical fears is the fear of heights. You look down and your body reacts immediately. Or you have a fear of flying, and you can work on it. But as soon as fear becomes abstract, problems arise. When children are afraid of the dark, it is difficult for them to immediately learn to control it. At some point they get over it, but it’s still unsettling. In cinema I like to talk about abstract fear, but it is a very complex process.

Source: Coming Soon

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