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An interview of the directors of Dead End
| A Film by
Jean-Baptiste Andrea & Fabrice Canepa
A mysterious woman in white appears from the forest, spreading death in her wake. Road signs indicate a town that can never be reached. As mile follows endless mile, an uncontrollable dread seizes the Harringtons, who henceforth have only one desperate desire: to get off the road. The nightmare has begun.
| What the Directors said
Dead End is a supernatural thriller, which evokes an experience, which with we are all familiar - the family outing. The Harringtons are an ordinary family, anyone can identify with them. But what is hiding behind their surface normality?
This is what Dead End explores. Rather than focusing on the killer, the mysterious woman in white, the film concentrates on how the victims react, how their secrets and frustrations emerge, how their facade cracks, before crumbling entirely.
We have all experienced these petty arguments, the insults and squabbles common to all families. It's a lack of communication between people, even those who are closest, that lies at the heart of Dead End. The Harrringtons, caught up in a nightmare, are forced to acknowledge the yawning gulf that has opened up between each of them, and which it is too late to close.
Fear, panic, hysteria - but also tenderness black humour, defiance. The Harringtons will never have lived so intensely as when they're about to die!
| INTERVIEW WITH JEAN-BAPTISTE ANDR�A & FABRICE CAN�PA
Can you tell us how the project came about?
FC We met in 1995 when I finished business school. We began by setting up a production company for documentaries - fiction came later.
What was it that interested you in the material?
| What was it that interested you in the material?
JBA Push a horrible situation to its furthest limit, and you often end up with laughter. A sick laughter perhaps, an uneasy laughter, but laughter all the same. Just as love and hate are linked. It's these powerful, apparently contradictory emotions, and the point where they meet, that interested us. We also decided to keep the gore effects to a minimum. What you don't show is generally more effective, more powerful, because the viewer's imagination fills in the gaps, always suggesting the absolute worst.
Did the circumstances of the production have any effect on the script?
FC And we wrote the film to fit a small budget. In this way the script was adapted to the conditions of the production.
| The film has tremendous energy, as if made in one piece. Tell us about the shoot? Was there a lot of improvisation?
JBA We were prepared to shoot the film on DV in French for six thousand Euros. To have shot it on 35 mm, with three weeks of filming in English and in the United States... it's a real fairytale! Even if that's a very short schedule for a feature! The improvisation largely took place during rehearsals, to create a coherent existence for this family even before shooting began. And sometimes, on the set, the actors behaved like a real family, even off camera! It was crazy.
FC With constraints, to improvise would have meant losing precious time. But with regard to the script, the actors at times had the freedom to embellish it.
Were the Hollywood actors fully complicit in this adventure?
FC The actors agreed to work on this low budget debut feature, without worrying whether it would even be released in the U.S., simply because they loved the script and wanted to take part in the adventure. We were really lucky.
| Could you tell us about the young blonde woman who appears by the roadside?
JBA I went back to a story I heard when I was a kid and which terrified me. A woman appears by the roadside, stops you and asks you for help, before disappearing suddenly, in the same place where she died. You find this myth in almost every culture. I find it terribly brutal and evocative, because everyone has experienced driving at night and saying to themselves at least once: "It wouldn't be good news to break down by the side of this road!"
FC We decided on the superb Amber Smith who, strangely, was the opposite of what we planned. We were looking for a brunette, intense, evanescent, and all our attempts struck us as unbelievable. The last to arrive, Amber made a powerful impression straight away. She brought something very carnal to her role, a strong element of the man-eater.
| Could this story have taken place France? Why did you shoot in the United States?
FC It's a question of realism. The look of the highway, the woods, the clothes, the accessories... It would have been very hard to reproduce in France. The movie didn't stick to the road!
JBA Anyway, right from the start, we wanted to tell an American story. If the script demands it, there's no reason for French directors not to shoot in English. All the more so now that Europe is a reality.
| How were you treated in Hollywood?
JBA Like kings. Over there, everyone begins from scratch. Every 18-year-old kid can dream of becoming the next Spielberg. It's the American dream. Everything's possible. All that's asked of you is that you're passionate, that you have stars in your eyes. There were plenty in ours!
Is Dead End a film destined for 'Movie Maniacs'?
JBA It's an out-of-kilter movie, a cocktail of different, sometimes opposing genres. But it's also the story of a family like yours, like mine, with their own secrets, joys and problems. So we hope that there's something in the film for every audience.
| What are your influences?
JBA David Lynch, for both of us. We shot the film just round the corner from where he filmed the crash sequence in Mullholland Drive. It's certainly not by coincidence that we chose Ray Wise. But we're crazy about cinema in general.
What impressions will you keep from the adventure?
FC A first film, shot on 35 mm, in Hollywood, with established American actors, combining American technique with French freedom... it was a dream come true!
To Find out where the film is played go to Dead End
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