Interview : Saul Dibb, Visionary Director

Director of Journey's End, Saul Dibb, talks about his beautiful period dramas Suite Française and The Duchess.

Q. Suite Française is a fantastic film. Michelle Williams is wonderful, and obviously Matthias Schoenaerts - You went through a hard process to get that part of the book ? (Dolce, part of the International bestseller Suite Française by Irene Nemorovsky) 

A. Thank you. Basically I was approached by a French company because it was such an International success, they wanted to do an English language adaptation. It was a difficult thing to do because it's an unfinished book comprised of two novellas that dont really relate to one another. I just had the idea of centring on the second half and then extrapolating that into the first part, to have the war alive in the French town.

Q. Dolce (the second part) is so well written, I would imagine it's easy to adapt?

A. Yeah. For me that is a film about civilians in the war, particularly the women (And then in Journey's End it's the male point of view).

Q. Was that kind German soldier, Bruno Von Falk (played by Matthias Schoenaerts), based on a real person, did you find out?

A. I think that Nemorovsky wrote about what she saw and I think it's a kind of thinly disguised reality. So Im pretty sure some part of the people she writes about were real.

Q. I love the end where Bruno is standing there - he looks so fragile - and she drives away. It's very well done.

A. Ah, thank you.

Q. What was it like working with Matthias Schoenaerts?

A. He was brilliant. He's a brilliant actor. I saw him first in Bullhead, then Rust and Bone. He's one of those people - he's very, he's fun to work with. He's very light off the set, very spontaneous. Then the minute you start shooting he switches and he becomes very focused and very in the moment, y'know. I think he's a really, really brilliant actor.

Q. I just saw The Duchess, that was amazing because of the Diana connection (Princess Diana) How did you feel when you found out this person who was a Duchess and lived a triangular life with her husband and his mistress was an ancestor of Diana's? "There was three of us in the marriage."

A. The truth is she probably represented a lot of women in those times. In those arranged marriages where you were pretty much owned by the man. The men had all the power and you couldnt get out and you were trapped in that relationship because you couldnt divorce. If you were a tainted woman you had it very difficult. So I just thought Diana was a part of a dying system, which is the monarchy. So she was one of the last people in that anachronistic dying system. I mean when we made the film we didnt try to draw any direct parallels between Diana and the Duchess. That came about more from the marketing campaign, which we were less keen on.
The marketing of the film is often very different from the intention of the film.

Q. And how do you feel about the British monarchy?

A. How do I feel about the monarchy ? Im a Republican. Not for the monarchy, but Harry makes it hard not to like him...But, no, Im not in favour of those antiquated systems.

Original Interview with Saul Dibb on Scannain

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