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  • One Year, One Night: Isaki Lacuesta on his innovative film of the Bataclan attack


One Year, One Night: Isaki Lacuesta on his innovative film of the Bataclan attack

One Year, One Night (Un año, una noche) is showing in a special EXBlicks preview on Nov 29. We spoke to direction Isaki Lacuesta about making a film about the Bataclan terrorist attack of 2015.

Photo: Bteam Pictures

The attack on Paris’ Bataclan is a raw, sensitive subject. How did you come to make a film about it?

For me, the film isn’t about the subject. I can’t imagine making a film about the Bataclan or about terrorism. Instead, it’s about subjective experiences – trauma especially – and it started because we met Ramón and Mariana (Céline). Ramón González was one of the first to publish his story. His book Paz, amor y death metal (Peace, Love and Death Metal) moved me greatly. I discussed it at length with my producer, Ramón Camps, who also happened to be in Paris on the night of the attacks. We decided to meet with Ramón and Mariana. It was the beginning of an amazing collaboration.

How faithful did you remain to Ramón’s testimony in the book?

Speech and dialogue are often deceptive; sometimes we say one thing but we mean something completely different.

We wanted to stay true to the story as told by Ramón, but we had to change its structure completely to suit the screen. We only pulled it off because Ramón, Mariana, Iván, María and other survivors from the attack were there to support us. They were present all the time: not just for the writing, but for the shooting and post-production too. For example, when we were filming the hostage scenes they were on site, explaining the exact details of the tragedy to all the crew and artistic staff.

The four of them make an actual appearance on screen, in the concert crowd in the final sequence. On the day of filming, they arrived wearing the same clothes they had worn on the night of the attack. It was an incredibly moving moment!

There must have been many such moments, working so closely with survivors of the attack…

There were lots. We got to know them and their relationships with the event very well. It’s funny – still today, as in the film, Ramón and Mariana have completely different memories of it. For example, they recall the lighting in the backstage of the theatre (where they were held) in conflicting ways. That often happens with distressing experiences like these. Ramón says that his memory changes rapidly, too: sometimes I’d ask him something about the attack and he’d tell me to read his book – the earlier account, he thinks, is the most accurate.

How did you go about presenting that subjectivity on screen?

The idea was to work with the concept of trauma, layering fragments of experience. Ramón and Mariana had to go through the painful and brave process of recalling memories they had first repressed but which slowly bubbled back to the surface. The images emerged organically, sometimes in contradictory ways. I love that way of filming because it’s faithful to the mind itself. True and false memories occupy the same space in our brain, and I wanted to show that on screen. To do that, I tried to work through concrete, physical details. Speech and dialogue are often deceptive; sometimes we say one thing but we mean something completely different. The only way to show invisible things like thoughts and feelings is through the body – its movements, its reactions. The body doesn’t lie.

That focus on the body is evident between the two leads. Noémie Merlant does a very convincing job as a young woman who uses denial as a coping mechanism…

She is one of the most amazing actors I have ever had the pleasure of directing. For the first time ever, I worked with a choreographer. It was great – looking back, I can’t understand why I’d never done it before! With the choreographer, we were able to develop how these characters walk, how they sleep and how they react to being touched – and how all those things develop over the months after the traumatic event.

Isaki Lacuesta. Photo: Isa Campo

How did you go about deciding what to show or not to show on screen? Many similar films balk at depicting the actual violence on the night of the attack – it’s pretty brave you risked it…

The police chief… told me that many of his officers, who are still suffering from the trauma of the night, never actually entered the theatre

Of course, the representation of violence is one of the most difficult dilemmas in cinema history. In this case we were close – in time and distance – to the real tragedy. We decided not to show gore; we decided never to see the terrorists. We saw them instead through the eyes of Ramón, for example. But we only discovered this technique later in the shooting process. At the beginning we thought it would be possible to put more focus on the bodies of victims, but we quickly found that it came across too harsh, disrespectful even. It was too much, especially when everybody in Paris knows someone who was there. So we decided to cut those images.

Did you involve more people in the reconstruction of events or meet any other survivors?

We met a lot of people from the emergency services. In the shots of the concert, for example, you’ll see some of the people who worked at the Bataclan on the night of the attack. Together, we tried to reconstruct that night. It was very moving. I’ll always remember my conversation with the police chief who was responsible for the intervention at the Bataclan. He told me that many of his officers, who are still suffering from the trauma of the night, never actually entered the theatre. The pain they bear is second-hand, experienced through their colleagues’ grief.

You seem to have put a lot of thought into the soundtrack. How did you incorporate sound and music into your vision?

We wanted to explore the idea of hyperesthesia (acute sensory sensitivity) using specialist sound editing. When the characters hear even the smallest of suggestive noises it triggers a whole series of events, representing that fragmented experience I mentioned earlier. The music, composed by Raül Refree, draws on a vast range of influences:  Monteverdi’s ‘Lamento Della Ninfa’ is one important example. Refree also sat down with Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth. It was important for us to represent rock ‘n’ roll accurately, since the freedom it symbolises was under attack that night. Thankfully there’s a resolution in the last scene when ‘Kiss the Devil’ by Eagles of Death Metal – the song that was playing when the gunmen opened fire – is played. The idea was simple: finally, we get to hear this song until the end.

  • One year, one night (Un año, una noche) will be released in Germany on Dec 15. It is showing at our special EXBlicks preview on Nov 29.
Isaki Lacuesta was born in Girona, Catalonia in 1975. His debut feature, Cravan vs Cravan (2002), won the RNE Sant Jordi award. His following films – La leyenda del tiempo (2006), Los condenados (2009) and La noche que no acaba (2010) – were also highly critically acclaimed. In 2011, he won the Concha de Oro award at the San Sebastián Film Festival with Los pasos dobles, a feature film starring Miquel Barceló. Un año, una noche (2021) premiered in competition at this year’s Berlinale. It will be released in Germany in December.