Home Entertainment How Olivier Dahan’s ‘Simone: A Woman of the Century’ Climbed to the Top of the French Box Office

How Olivier Dahan’s ‘Simone: A Woman of the Century’ Climbed to the Top of the French Box Office

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Hollywood superheroes may be dominating the top spots at the French box office, but a homegrown film about a feminist politician and Holocaust survivor managed to win over audiences to become one of the leading films in France this year.

Drawing of an olive tree Simone: Woman of the Century (Simone, Le Voyage Du Siècle), It is published by Warner Bros. Pictures. Pictures. France, It has sold more than 2.4 million views to date and is now France’s second-biggest film year-on-year – after the national comedy (Bad) Marriages in Series 3. It’s still going strong after more than 14 weeks in theaters, despite its dark subject matter.

The film tells the story of Simone Veil (1927-2017), former President of the European Parliament, known for her crucial role in passing abortion legalization in France, as well as her protection of other marginalized groups.

The story explores Veil’s political career, but also his lesser-known work as a young judge in the early 1950s and his personal story of deportation to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, overcoming misogyny and balancing life as a working mother and justice activist. The film swings back in time, jumping between a young cameo, played by star Rebecca Marder, and an older, fiercely made-up Elsa Zilberstein.

The film was produced by Romain Le Grand, Vivien Aslanian and Marco Paccioni of Paris-based Marvelous Productions, whose credits include Full building permit And Carmen) With France 2 Cinéma, France 3 Cinéma and Scope Pictures in Belgium also on board. Dahan wrote the script and international sales are handled by Angle Pictures.

From script to screen

Zilberstein had been looking forward to working on a cameo movie for years and approached Marvelous with the concept. Co-founder and brilliant producer Le Grand says they immediately thought of Dahan to direct and write.

Dahan had already produced biographies of two exceptional women: Academy Award-winning actress Edith Piaf; life rosary With Marion Cotillard and Grace Kelly Monaco blessing With Nicole Kidman.

But when Dahan started talking about the film in the industry, reactions to his plans to bring the Holocaust to the big screen were mostly negative. They said: We’ve seen this on screen many times before. But Schindler’s List That was almost 30 years ago and pianist Almost 20. Not everyone has seen it Son of Saul. I wanted to address children from 15 to 20 years old.

Dahan drew on his personal family history: the director’s grandmother, father and uncles were all French Jews who were tracked down by the police during World War II and narrowly avoided being sent to the same concentration camps where Simone Veil’s mother, father and brother died.

While the film was marketed more as an ode to a feminist icon than a Holocaust drama, for Dahan: “It’s a Holocaust movie. She was in the camps, and since then she hasn’t experienced any form of injustice.”

Le Grand says that from the costumes to the production design to the director himself, a lot of research has been done to make sure the Holocaust is historically accurate.

The film itself, Dahan says, is designed to be more of a trap than an escape from reality. There is no comedy in that. Simon. I really wanted to stifle the viewer. I love movies when they are physical experiences. My goal is not to entertain. It’s about sharing something incredible with the audience,” he explains.

Life is (especially) in pink

The $16 million film is one of Warner Bros.’ biggest budget and production hits. in France until now. Simon It also marks Dahan’s return to the big screen, nearly a decade after the tumultuous release of Monaco blessing With Nicole Kidman. Dahan has had a public argument with Harvey Weinstein Monaco blessingfinal cut. I say simon, Marvelous and Warner Bros. Let him tell the story he wants.

“We followed his choices and his vision. The idea was to balance Simone Vail’s political struggles with her personal story and Olivier Dahan knew how to do that,” explains Pierre Branco, general manager of Warner Bros. France, the Benelux and Africa.

For his part, Dahan says he was able to “bring out the movie that was in my head from the beginning”. However, he adds, the process was far from smooth: “Freedom is not given. I have to impose it. I had to fight for Simon People see it in movies. »

Dahan describes his directing process as follows: “I improvise when I shoot. I don’t have a storyboard or script on set. For me, perception he editing. The language of cinema is not shooting a film – it is putting it together brick by brick. Cinema is liberating. Managers who don’t adjust do only half the job. »

Long trip to the theaters

Principal photography was completed in early 2020, and Dahan took advantage of the national lockdown in France to edit and complete the film in late 2020. Simon It was originally set to be released in 2021, but the studio delayed its release until fall 2022 until the worst of the Covid waves had passed.

“We wanted to give him every opportunity to fight because we thought he had the ability to find his audience, so we deliberately waited until October, hoping that it would be better and people would come back in the halls,” Branko said.

The film was shown in October on 600 screens and then in 1,700 theaters. Even 13 weeks after its release, the film is still at the top of the French box office and has sold more than 500 copies. Branko says the movie thrives naturally. “We are not doing any other marketing at this point. Word of mouth for the movie has been excellent.”

Simon It was an unexpected hit with young audiences, with ticket sales among 15-24 year olds accounting for 17%. He’s a character that Branko describes as too strong for a movie that isn’t necessarily aimed at a young adult or family audience.

The studio’s approach to marketing to young audiences was twofold. First, it focused on educators, particularly in the field of history or gender studies. At the same time, they’ve stepped up their digital campaigns, collaborating with TikTok for the first time for a French title at the film’s Paris premiere. “We have exclusive TikTok content that puts the topics covered in the film into a contemporary context,” says Branko.

Quotes from the movie — most of them real words attributed to Simone Veil — were trending on the platform for weeks after the movie was released. Instead of taking selfies, “the little girls on TikTok were posting quotes from the movie,” Dahan says.

Le Grand adds: “In France, many people under the age of 20 have never heard of the Holocaust. So the fact that because of this movie, 16-year-olds are posting Simone Veil quotes on TikTok sends shivers down our spines.

Simon next steps

Warner Bros. He is now looking to release the film internationally with the option of a second showing on HBO Max.

Another company, Angle Pictures, has sold the movie across the board and it has just been released in Belgium, Switzerland and Spain. Samuel Goldwyn Films owns the North American rights and plans a slow release in the US, starting with film festivals earlier in the year and then more widely in theaters in the fall.

As for Dahan’s next move, after spending two years writing, filming and editing such a serious story about a dark period in history, the director says he’s open to a “lighter” next project. “I always say I want something lighter, but at the end of the day I want to do something thematically and technically complex.”

Dahan says he hasn’t decided what his next film will be yet, but is leaning toward writing a book that follows a 30-year romance produced by Alain’s longtime collaborators Legende Films. Goldman, who also produced life rosary.

At Warner Bros France in 2023, three films by young directors, including the highly anticipated Lea Domenach. bernadette, About the iconic French first lady, played by Catherine Deneuve, and also co-produced by Marvelous who have a deal with the studio for the first time since 2017. Warner Bros. A Jennifer Devolder movie will also be released sig ohm and Melissa Drygeard hawaii, Comedy Drama Star the artistBernice Bigot.

Simon: Woman of the Century It may be a success story in French cinemas, but Dahan just wants as many people as possible to see it, no matter what. “The industry is changing so we have to change with it. I made my film to be shown in a cinema, but it can also be seen on the phone. The interesting thing about cinema is not the size of the screen, it’s watching with other people.”

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