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A Very Long Engagement - Gaspard Ulliel Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. What was being in the trench like?
A:
It was wonderful. As Jean-Pierre said it was really shocking the first time we entered he trenches set. For me, I had images of those trenches in black and white from the footage we can see, or the photos. Here we could see the real trenches in colour, and it was really shocking because it was like you were really in the trenches.
We had the chance to work in a wonderful set, really realistic, and I think it really helped the actors to feel more like soldiers.

Q. What was your knowledge of WWI like before the film?
A
: I had a really basic knowledge of this war that I learnt at school. You learn that it’s a horrible war, and that it was the worst conditions for the soldiers, much worse than the Second World War.
But it’s funny because I remember learning at school that the soldiers were happy to go to war, and Jean-Pierre told me this was completely false.
Jeunet: In fact, they believed in patriotism. You can read it in letters ‘how it’s difficult to die for France’. You can read this type of sentence, and you understand they believed it because of the propaganda of the time. We lost a million and a half people, I think the British people lost a lot too.
Now we are starting to understand just why this war was important for France, but it was pretty unknown until now. It’s strange. We don’t want it to be too late to understand, because the last survivors of the war are very, very old now.
Ulliel: I know there weren’t machine guns and things like this, it was more fighting with bayonets.
Tautou: I agree with Gaspard. I also had some knowledge from school, but I was closer to the Second World War because of the education my parents gave me. I think it’s a question of generations too. The First World War seems such a different period.

Q. What sort of research did you do for the role?
A:
Jean-Pierre asked each actor to read a book on World War One which was a diary of a soldier, called Les Carnet de guerre de Louis Barthas Tonnelier.
That’s an important book for historians today in this period of history. You can learn really interesting things about the daily life in the trenches, and the feelings that soldiers would get. I had a really basic knowledge of World War One, the stuff you learn at school. So I think it really helped me to become conscious of what life was really like in those trenches. I think it really helped me.

Q. How did you work at getting the chemistry between your two characters?
Jeunet:
They had the love story on the set. That’ll make a rumour in England!
Ulliel: I had never met Audrey before, in fact we had lunch once or twice before the shooting. In fact I remember the first day of shooting, which was the scene where I’m leaving Audrey to go to war, and we were really sad about what we losing. But it was kind of strange to begin with this bit of the story.
We got used to it little by little and I think the chemistry worked well. But I remember that with Audrey we were anxious because we had few sequences together in the flashback parts.
We thought it was really important or the emotion and the suspense to work through the movie. It was important for the audience to see that there were some really passionate feelings between the two characters and we had very few scenes to show this. We were a bit anxious, but I think we managed quite well.

 

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