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Interview with Bouli Lanners director of The Giants

How did The Giants come about?

I wanted to tell the story of two brothers who fend for themselves, on the edge of society and away from the city. The idea that they should be two young adolescents then imposed itself because I wanted to talk about that period in life when, guided by a desire for freedom and change, everything seems possible, even if the confrontation with the adult world is often harsh.

Was it important to set the film in the heart of nature?
Nature gives the characters a horizon that wouldn’t have been possible in an urban context. The relationship between the two brothers, Seth and Zack, and their friend Dany, is built up outside all social relationships. Their lives unfold in the woods as in a traditional tale and they band together to kill the wolf just like the three little pigs…

Then do you view The Giants as a sort of modern tale?
In a traditional tale, the children are often lost deep in the woods and most of the time events unfold when the parents are away, as in The Giants. By presenting the film as a tale, I could tackle themes such as parental absence or the lack of affection in a roundabout manner and tell the story of a friendship stronger than anything in an original manner.

The river plays an important role in the film.
Rivers fascinate me. They lead us towards adventure. They comfort us, mother us. This one allows the heroes to flee an adult world that isn’t particularly appealing. I scouted all the rivers and lakes in the North of France, Luxembourg and Germany and ended up discovering the one used in the film. It was obvious: we had to shoot there! There’s something comforting about allowing yourself to be carried along by the current. Indeed, that’s how the film ends: they let themselves drift off in a tiny boat saying, “we’re heading for something better”. They don’t say, “we’re going to climb mountains”. No, here, they let themselves be carried along.

An open ending?
Yes. They leave and I have faith in their journey. I wouldn’t mind leaving with them. I’ve often felt that desire, to let the river carry me along and go far away. In the context of the film, leaving means going towards something better. But I’ll let the viewers interpret it as they choose.

Do you feel any nostalgia for adolescence?
Adolescence is the age of every possibility, of every certainty. Fragile certainties but certainties all the same! It’s the age that I regret; it’s the age of revolutions. All revolutions are adolescent ones. It’s the only time when you can change. It nourishes the coming adult; it’s the time when things become inscribed. It’s a wonderful age yet it is viewed in a dim light today. But perhaps it has always been like that…

Did your own memories of adolescence mark the film?
I remember I used to seek refuge in nature. I would spend my day in the woods and sleep in the fields.

What part does humour play in The Giants?
It brings a little lightness, a breath of air… Humour is necessary, I need it as soon as I start writing. It’s an outlet.
It’s always easier to speak about moving or serious things through the prism of humour.

How did you go about casting the film?
Martin and Zacharie immediately imposed themselves as the two brothers. But we still needed the boy who would play Dany. We were three weeks away from shooting, in rehearsals in Luxembourg. I was getting a little desperate but Aurelie Guichard, our casting director, found Paul at last! The three boys met and, like molecules drawn to each other, it was obvious right away, before we even rehearsed. They saw each other and they hit it off immediately!

Tell us about the film’s music.
While I was writing the screenplay, I made a compilation of different tunes including one by a folk group that I was crazy about. With my producer, Jacques-Henri Bronckart, I met Bram Vanparys from The Bony King of Nowhere. He read the screenplay, he came to the shoot with his instruments to bask in the atmosphere of the film and to get his inspiration from the set, and then he recorded in the natural world. The idea was to do demos and then work in the studio later… But the demos were fantastic and we never used the studio.

Why “The Giants”?
Zack, Seth and Dany choose friendship and make a sacrifice. They really grow up. They’re in a precarious situation, yet they decide not to put anyone else in danger. They assume responsibility in a way that many adults wouldn’t. That’s when they truly become giants!

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