Home » NEW; FRANCE/ “What’s Wrong Between Men & Women; Debate About Femicide”

NEW; FRANCE/ “What’s Wrong Between Men & Women; Debate About Femicide”

by Narges Mohammadi
FRANCE/ Cold-case drama The Night of the 12th has just swept the board at the Oscars in France and has the nation talking about misogyny and murder. We talk to its director, Dominik Moll, about how it made him question his place in the patriarchy. At 6 am on a Tuesday in May 2013, the half-charred, petrol-doused body of a young woman was found on a residential street, 25km east of Paris. It was 21-year-old Maud Maréchal, who had been returning at night from a friend’s house to her family home, just a few meters from where she was killed. A neighbor discovered the corpse, the police fruitlessly investigated this horrific murder, and then Maréchal’s death was filed away, hardly noticed by the French press.

Until now in France

A fictionalized account of the murder, The Night of the 12th by Franco-German director Dominik Moll, has just swept the boards at France’s Oscars equivalent; the César awards, reviving interest in the Maréchal case. “It was important to remind people there was a real victim; and her name was Maud,” says the director, speaking over Zoom from his home in Montreuil, 20km from where the young woman lived. “But then quite a few journalists started to talk about the real case in a very irresponsible way.”  Rather than Maréchal murder, he was intrigued by the idea of investigators becoming obsessed with the case that gets away. But adapting the 30pages devoted to the case, but he quickly found himself framing it within the context of the raging public debate in France about femicide: “My co-writer Gilles Marchand and I felt that we needed to develop this aspect of what’s wrong between men and women. The #MeToo movement made us more aware of these problems.”

The police make jokes, to let off steam. But they’re saying: ‘All these crimes get to me, and I feel depressed’

Moll’s previous film, the 2019 highlands thriller Only the Animals, also featured a young woman’s murder but put it at the heart of a globalized reflection on desire. The somber, almost shell-shocked The Night of the 12th is more rigorous in its interrogation of gender relations. But compared to modern cold-case classics such as Zodiac or Memories of Murder, it feels uninterested in prodding us with thriller mechanics. Instead, it emphasizes the devastation experienced by the victim’s family, before turning the lamp firmly on the investigators: the stolid new boy Yohan, played by Bastien Bouillon, and his silverback partner Marceau (Bouli Lanners), for whom the dead woman’s sex life touches a nerve, given his failed marriage. Moll spent a week with the judicial police in the Alpine city of Grenoble, where he relocated the story, and realized that almost all of them were men. This led to a certain atmosphere: “When there’s a group, there’s always this thing where you can’t show weakness. And so you can make jokes about things, to let off steam. But it’s saying: ‘All this violence, all these crimes get to me, and I feel depressed.’ I think it’s more difficult for men than women to talk about intimate things.” You can see how much routine flippancy could harden into the kind of institutional misogyny that has recently been found in London’s Metropolitan Police.

I have a problem with a lot of Tarantino’s violent scenes because I feel he’s just having fun

Another such position is, of course, that of film director – exercising representational control over the portrayal of women. Moll has often spoken about Hitchcock as his lodestar, an inspiration visible in his previous César winner, the 2000 sly black comedy Harry, He’s Here to Help, and the 2005 thriller Lemming. When I mention the master’s women-in-jeopardy fetish and misogynistic tension with many of his female leads, Moll leaps to his defense. He says Hitch’s precision regarding point of view inspired him when depicting Clara’s death and carbonized remains in The Night of the 12th – which he told his producers was necessary to lend the crime the appropriate gravity. “I have a problem with a lot of Tarantino’s violent scenes because I feel he’s just having fun. Hitchcock helped me because he is very good at conveying violence without showing it. So we had those tight closeups when she meets the killer, on the lighter, on her eyes, then suddenly to have the very wide shot – unspectacular in a sense – of her crossing the frame as a small burning figure. All those things come from studying Hitchcock and his film language.” Moll doesn’t think his work is getting necessarily darker as he gets older, even though The Night of the 12th is shorn of the piquant ironies of Harry, He’s Here to Help. But with his early noughties and present-day work is equally drawn down into unconscious nooks of the psyche, his interest in human foibles is constant. During the lockdown, he took up an old childhood love again, a remnant of his pre-cinema interest in art and biology: drawing. “Very detailed drawings of animals in black ink,” he specifies. Source: The Guardian 

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