Sarkozy biopic to pull no punches at Cannes: scriptwriter

12th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The much-anticipated film about Nicolas Sarkozy's rise to power that is to premiere at Cannes will pull no punches as it strips bear French politics, scriptwriter Patrick Rotman told AFP.

The French president has already said he will not be seeing "La Conquete" ("The Conquest"), directed by Xavier Durringer, which Rotman describes as "the story of a man who conquers power and loses his wife," Cecilia.

"I did an enormous amount of investigation," Rotman, better known as a documentary maker, told AFP of the film centred on the 2007 French presidential campaign.

"I needed to know the story like the back of my hand," he said in an interview in Paris last week.

Few if any French films have been made about serving heads of state, and in "The Conquest" the spectator become "the mouse under the table who sees and hears everything" of the campaign and the intimacy of Sarkozy's doomed marriage, says Rotman.

"I trawled through the press, I read dozens of books -- likely never before had so much been written about a candidate -- I met numerous witnesses, those involved in the campaign, journalists from the 'Sarko Circus' who followed him everywhere and recorded informal exchanges," he said.

"We kept the project that was written in the heat of the moment under absolute secrecy. Three people were aware: the producers and me."

"Some of the scenes, less than 10, are absolutely as they happened: iconic scenes, like that at Baule, which are important to bring the spectator into the true story."

Baule is a resort where Sarkozy's fierce rival, former prime minister Dominique de Villepin, was filmed emerging from the ocean after a sporty swim while then interior minister Sarkozy sat nervously waiting for Villepin to join him for breakfast.

"Sometimes we didn't have footage but very detailed accounts: so we improvised while remaining very close to reality."

"The overwhelming majority of scenes were made up, but the political content of the discussion is fair, with the desire to make a meticulous and faithful reproduction."

The film is unembarrassed about showing politicians as they are -- at least away from the electorate's view.

"Lots of people will be surprised by the violence and cruelty of the milieu's language," says Rotman. "That's because you have to kill the other and in politics you shoot with words.

"And every journalist who spends time with politicians knows that they swear like troopers, especially (former president Jacques) Chirac and Villepin. Nicolas Sarkozy flies off the handle with his entourage."

In depicting the departure of Sarkozy's wife, Cecilia, the film had to deal with "the close links between private and public life, which is crucial and essential for the story and which the film could not deal with abstractly.

"When she leaves, it's not only his wife but his social control that goes with her. She ran everything."

"And (Sarkozy) exposed his private life so much that he allowed us to make this film."

"'The Conquest' is the story of a man who conquers power and loses his wife: May 6, 2007 (when he was elected) he spends the day looking for her and, when he finds her, he tries to convince her to come back. The film describes the despair of the election winner trying to get his wife."

"Cecilia also opened herself up a lot and so I had direct sources. But those scenes were the most difficult to write."

Sarkozy, since remarried to former model Carla Bruni, is expected to stand again in next year's presidential election, but his approval ratings are at an all-time low, with around 80 percent of voters having negative opinion of him.

Nevertheless, Rotman insists he does not want to stir anti-Sarkozy feeling, adding that the script was written in between Sarkozy's election victory and his swearing in in early 2008.

"There's no desire to be disparaging: Nicolas Sarkozy is a touching, annoying, endearing, odious character. A complex, contradictory personality. The film takes into account his incredible energy, his capacity to fight, at once a bloke and a little boy.

"The Conquest" screens out of competition at Cannes, the world's biggest and glitziest film festival, on May 18.

© 2011 AFP

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