Back to Reims: Adèle Haenel gives voice to an exciting and committed documentary


 Presented at the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes in July 2021, "Return to Reims (Fragments)" by Jean-Gabriel Périot illustrates the essay by philosopher and sociologist Didier Eribon using carefully chosen archive images. Meet.

“ Social progress is only possible through struggles .” This sentence, pronounced by the actress  Adèle Haenel during her interview with AlloCiné , sums up Return to Reims (Fragments) in itself . In his film, director  Jean-Gabriel Périot adapts the eponymous essay by Didier Eribon. In his book, published in 2009, the sociologist and philosopher describes his social environment - the working class -, the history of his family and his journey as a class defector.

Presented at the Directors' Fortnight at the 74th Cannes Film Festival, the feature film is not a traditional adaptation. To breathe new life into the author's writings, the committed filmmaker uses excerpts from fiction films, documentaries and television news. To unearth the rare moments, those that best illustrate the original essay, Jean-Gabriel Périot went through hours of archive footage over the course of months.

“ The difficulty is not to have access to it because thanks to the INA, we can find everything that has been broadcast since the creation of French television , assures the director. Here, the problem is the mass of sources .” Although Return to Reims (Fragments)is only interested in a few very specific axes of Didier Eribon's text, the subjects covered are multiple: the work of women in the factory, illegal abortion... “ You have to watch everything to not miss anything and I assure you that films about divorce in the seventies are times of trouble. ”

During his work, Jean-Gabriel Périot has put his finger on the missing images, those that are never shown. “ You never see those who work the wood or the cleaning women ,” he laments. Even in the films made by the French Communist Party (PCF) or committed directors, there are still stupid jobs. The cleaning lady is an absolute shame, we don't even talk about it .”

It is tragic to think that children were already considered to be drudgery, subject to the question of added value.

With Retour à Reims (Fragments) , it is the first time that Adèle Haenel embodies the voice-over of a feature film. By reading the words of Didier Eribon, she wishes “to support the subject and insert, through interpretation, [her] point of view .” She continues: “ The film has the great quality of being clear. It is articulated in two movements: first we talk about the family experience and we explore the genealogical branches through two generations to understand what social determinism is, the weight of class .”

“ Then, in the second part, what I find interesting is the question of alliances. How an attempt to silence a working class, with a revolutionary tendency, leads to a recasting of alliances from a national point of view , she continues. And also, how capitalism and nationalism go hand in hand with racism .”Many images from the film mark the spirits. Some are rare, others difficult to see, such as those of working children. “ It's tragic to think that they were already considered to be corvéables, subject to the question of added value ,” explains Adèle Haenel. And there is this woman who describes her work at the factory. These are testimonies that we never hear in direct speech .”

With Retour à Reims (Fragments) , Jean-Gabriel Périot addresses all generations: “I showed this film to my niece while it was still being edited. She told me, at 16, that she was happy to live in today's era. She understood that natural freedom and achievements have a history of struggle and that it is up to her to continue ."

Interview by Thomas Desroches, in Cannes, in July 2021.

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