Lights Out Simon Werner a disparu
Credits non contractual
- Teens often feel surrounded by danger. And sometimes, they're right.
Music by Sonic Youth
- Teens often feel surrounded by danger. And sometimes, they're right.
- 91 min - 'Drama' - French - 2009
- Color - 1.85 - Dolby SR SRD - HD masters available
- Fabrice Gobert
- Jules Pelissier
Serge Riaboukine (Angel-A, Crimson Rivers 2, Look at Me)
Laurent Capelluto (A Christmas Tale - Most promising actor at the Cesar Awards 2008)
- Jules Pelissier
- Marc-Antoine Robert and Xavier Rigault - 2.4.7. Films
March 1992, in a small town in the suburbs of Paris. During an alcohol fuelled party, teenagers discover a body hidden in the bushes of a forest. A body that seems lifeless.
Two weeks earlier.
Simon, a 16 year-old teenager, has not shown up for class. Blood stains are found in a class-room. Run-away, kidnap, suicide, murder?
A few days later, Laetitia, a student from the same class goes missing without her parents knowing where she has gone. A young girl with no dark background or connection to Simon.
The next day, Jean-Baptiste, a third student, also disappears.
Rumors start to spread. The psychosis begins…
- Written and directed by
Marc-Antoine Robert and Xavier Rigault - 2.4.7. Films
Director of Photography
(Home, Nuovomundo, Strayed, The Dreamlife of Angels, Beau Travail)
- Written and directed by
In your film, you play with different movie genres - teen movie, thriller, cop movie - without ever getting trapped in any of them. What is your position on the notion of genre?
That was the idea: to be at the crossroads, to navigate between different genres. I wanted to start out a little like a thriller, and then go from one genre to another, freely. As a spectator, I love that idea. I think switching from one genre to another makes sense in certain narratives. It is an interesting way to express what is going on in the minds of the characters.
Your characters give the film its structure: each one has a chapter. What made you choose that approach?
Again, I love that kind of cinematographic structure when it serves a purpose. Jeremie, Alice and the others all come up with their own “scenario,” each in their own way. In a certain sense, they are trying to become heroes, heroes of their own life. They desperately want something to happen to them… Each part makes us see the story in a new light, taking on a different point of view and flashing back and forward in time, and throwing new light on the characters as well. By moving the characters to the forefront or to the background, depending upon the chapter, I
wanted to progressively bring out the complexity of their personalities.
We can tell right away that it’s not 2010, but we’re not too far back in the past either. Why did you set the story in the past?
I started out with an experience I had when I was a junior in high school in the suburbs of Paris in 1992. A student from my school had disappeared and we heard nothing from him for several weeks. I wanted to talk about the group of friends I had at the time, about the questions that it inspired among us. From there it seemed obvious that the action had to happen in the early 90’s.
Secondly, I realized the difference that made with regards to the present day: no Internet, no cell phones… Setting it back in time gives the whole movie a certain strangeness. Jeremie and the others live in a place that looks like a thousand others, in a time that is hard to identify. That adds to their feeling of being out of focus.
The high school, and town as well, make us think of American movies…
Yes, that was exactly the idea. We looked for locations in the suburbs of Paris that could be potential locations for American movies, to follow that vein in the imagination of our main characters. I wanted an area with houses that all looked the same, with a little front lawn. We also had to feel like we were close to the forest. We finally found the perfect spot in Essonne. I also wanted a high school that fit the period, built of concrete and open to the outside, with lawns, large windows
and wide hallways… Bondoufle High School was perfect, and very cinematographic as well.
How did you create your galaxy of characters?
Using the same logic, I started with typical American teen movie characters that I thought would be interesting to adapt to Parisian suburbia. Each of the film’s characters tries to fit into a stereotypical role: the hunk, the athlete, the loudmouth, the outcast, the bombshell, etc. As if they were trying to define themselves in relation to these models, without really succeeding: the athlete has his leg in a cast, the funny guy gets made fun of, the smart kid is bad in math, the pretty girl is brainy too…
How did you work with the actors on Lights Out / Simon Werner a disparu…?
I had a pretty clear idea of the characters and I talked a lot with the actors about them before shooting. I wrote up biographies for each one that talked about their relationships with their parents, their grades, their sexual experiences and their taste in movies, books and music. I created a playlist of songs from that period for each character. After that, each actor added his or her own personality and way of walking and talking and made the character real.
Music plays a big part in the film…
I listened to a lot of music in high school, especially rock. I had a list of titles from the early 90’s that we listened to on the shoot. Some made it into the film. I wanted the original soundtrack to be written by a rock group, if possible one symbolic of the times. We needed something special for the music to become a real character of the film. A character that would never be exactly where you expect it to be. An entity of its own that would express what the heroes of the movie couldn’t express themselves.
So you called Sonic Youth…
During preproduction, I listed to Sonic Youth a lot. There was something that really fit the world of the film, something
that just felt right that came from the strength, originality and melancholy that emanate from their songs. The producers and I started dreaming of them composing the music. We contacted them, without expectations, and to my great delight they were interested.
Can you talk about the film’s lighting?
My reference is the American photographer Gregory Crewdson, who transforms ordinary landscapes of suburban America into extremely frightening, disturbing places. The light is created and artificial; it expresses the unconscious mind of the characters being photographed. That was really one of the film’s main ideas: to use the entire palette that cinema offers (light, editing, music, etc.) to transcend the life that the film’s characters consider to be too ordinary.
For the Director of Photography, I immediately thought of Agnès Godard, whose work I admire very much. I think she has a special talent for sublimating the ordinary and creating mystery and strangeness. She wanted to experiment and try to be audacious with this film, and I was thrilled!
You adopt a distinct lighting and framing style in function with the perspective of each character…
The film is divided into four chapters, each one being centered on a main character. For Agnès, it was a little like having to shoot four different films. Without being too ormulaic, each one had to have its own grammar. For the first part, which is Jeremie’s part and the most conservative, we shot with a standard lens. We wanted to follow him all the time, so the camera was often moving… In the second part, which is Alice’s, we really wanted to stay on Ana Girardot’s face. We used longer focal lengths and stayed tight on her. Since she’s kind of the “high-school star,” we also always had a spotlight on her, which highlighted her presence. Jean-Baptiste Rabier was filmed in long shots. He is a lonely character who works well in scenery, especially on the empty high school grounds. He is kind of the high school’s architect. For the last part, which is Simon’s part, the camera always moved with him.
For you, adolescence is a cinematographic age?
It’s in any case a subject that interests me a lot. The teenagers in the film struggle to define themselves, to exist… They also have to manage their fears and anxieties, the stress from their parents and society… They feel threatened and find it hard to see their future. In the beginning what interested me had to do with phantasms, with the way we dream up our lives and others’ lives as well. It’s a universal theme, which is surely more intense at that particular time in life.
"If it existed, the Palme d'Or for best teen movie would go to Lights Out by Fabrice Gobert. His first feature film reveals uncommon mastery and control. You think of Elephant and Gus Van Sant...
...brilliantly scripted... constant suspense.
The great success of the film, carried by convincing young actors, consists of taking the adolescent tendency to fantasize about life and confronting it with much duller realities.
With a soundtrack composed by Sonic Youth, American-style locations in a French city and an ability to bring fantasy out of everyday life, Lights Out stands up to the challenge of genre and American cinema. It does a pretty brilliant job of it."
"There is a touch of thriller, a hint of comedy and a portrait of today’s teenagers set to a score by Sonic Youth in this cleverly written debut feature. Presented today at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival, in the Un Certain Regard selection, Fabrice Gobert’s Lights Out proves to be an interesting exercise in style whose obvious influences (including Elephant, Brick and The Virgin Suicides) don’t prevent it from asserting a rather individual identity thanks to an excellent cast and a sharp perception of the world of high school students and their ability to fantasize about reality."
"classic ingredients of the teenage horror film are there (a forest at night, a secluded hut, intriguing conversations heard by chance), humour pierces through with the inevitable obsessions of boys and girls in the middle of a hormonal surge and their first romantic experiences. The sophisticated mechanics of the screenplay preserve the driving forces of a plot that manages to play hide-and-seek with the audience."
"Lights Out with Sonic Youth. The New York group wrote the original soundtrack of this outstanding first film by Fabrice Gobert."
"...a curious mix of Elephant by Gus Van Sant (drama in a school setting), Twin Peaks (the disappearance of a handsome boy/Laura Palmer, the dark and mysterious forest) and Eric Rohmer (Love Games)."
"Lit and photographed in hyperreal style by leading French cinematographer Agnes Godard and featuring a loose and rangy instrumental soundtrack by US indie rockers Sonic Youth, it plays with the dark side of suburbia in ways that recall Twin Peaks – though without David Lynch’s edge of madness."
"A first feature film that reveals uncommon mastery and control.
A sophisticated version of a high school movie with 90's music and a series of disappearances. A exciting first feature film by Fabrice Gobert.
A sophisticated structure like Elephant.
Lights Out is full of pure cinema pleasure.
The imagery and framing by Agnès Godard, the cinematographer of most of Claire Denis' films, are once again irresistible."
"...a deftly realized teen thriller..."
"Gobert has a knack for portraying adolescents in all their oily awkwardness..."
"Solid camerawork and low-key lighting by ace d.p. Agnes Godard gives the action a naturalistic flavor..."
"Gobert's first feature Lights Out turned out to be one of the most memorable at the festival."
"through the characters, this film becomes something more than your typical teen thriller."
The soundtrack is comprised of songs from Sonic Youth, and awesome and fitting choice."
I watched the film at a public screening which concluded with a two minute standing ovation for the cast and crew. Lights Out is a thrilling and engrossing entry into the teen film genre, and Hollywood should take note."
"An audacious first film."
- To review an article, click on the corresponding pdf file:
- Le Monde Lights Out.pdf
Cesar Awards 2011
Nomination in the Best First Work category
Cannes Film Festival 2010
Un Certain Regard
Sitges 2010 - Category New Vision
Best Motion Picture
Courmayeur Noir in Festival
Special Jury Prize