COMPETITION – The experimental cinema of Arnaud des Pallières

Mads Mikkelsen and Hanne Jakobsen © AFP

Arnaud Des Pallières has just presented his fourth film at Cannes: Michael Kohlhaas, a historical fresco inspired by the short story by Heinrich Von Kleist, with Mads Mikkelsen in the title role.


Michael Kohlhaas © RR


Of the six French films to feature in Competition, the work by Arnaud des Pallières is something of an outsider. After four unorthodox films and a caustic documentary on Disneyland, the filmmaker from the eclectic and unpredictable world of docufilms has attracted much curiosity with this novelistic project.
His adaptation of the German short story tells of the revenge of a horse trader living in the Cévennes in the 16th century. The trader, who has lost his worldly goods, sets out on a mission of vengeance to get back what is his.
The armour of Kohlhaas, a bloodthirsty anti-hero, was given to Mads Mikkelsen, a Danish actor riding high since his award-winning role as Best Actor in  Thomas Vinterberg’s La Chasse at the 65th  Festival de Cannes. A year after winning the prize, this is the actor’s first starring role in a French film, under Des Pallières, a director whose left-field projects seem almost to come from another world.
In 1996, his first film Drancy Avenir, a reflective look back at the deportation of the Jews, featured surprisingly experimental editing in which the sound and image were decoupled. The director sees the cutting room phase as a crucial stage, which he completes alone, in his house in the provinces. Rather than simply assembling scenes, for him this phase is an invitation to reflect, often featuring an intimate voice off.

In an interview with the French newspaper Libération, the director explained that he could not describe his films as they were pure cinematic objects, unable to be captured in words. This admirer of Gertrude Stein declared at the Visions du Réel Festival that one of the author’s phrases has even become a motto: “If it can be done, why do it?” 


Lisa Revil

Friday 24 May / Grand Théâtre Lumière / 11.30 a.m – 10.30 p.m

Saturday 25 May / Salle du Soixantième / 2 p.m
>> View the interactive calendar