A student comes to suffer his punishment, guarded by one of the most feared high school teachers. But the punishment will gradually turn tables.
FAR WORSE TRIALS
> At the heart of your short film is a question of power and relationships: why were you interested in these topics?
Grégoire Tirot, a French sociologist, pointed out a long time ago how the inhuman conditions of the capitalist and liberal world led “meritocracy” to fade before a return of blood bonds: that is, of “nepotist” tendencies, or, simply said, of putting your own family in charge.
In my short film, I wanted to explore this theme within the context of schools, because I think that the pressures that teachers apply to schools are not always even, and in some cases, like the one portrayed in the story, some children are put in far better spots than others, while some are neglected the opportunity to become better.
However, I don’t think this process may come through any kind of physical violence, and I usually do not like physical violence myself – I prefer psychological violence, which I think is much more telling, and which, in this case, I think is much more applicable.
> Your short film is in itself developed within the constraints of a single classroom. Why did you decide it to be so?
While making this short film, I wanted to bring the viewer into facing these delicate themes, and to question him or her about them, but I wanted to do so in a kind of theatrical and minimalist way: a kind of “behind closed doors” movie, a sincere story that is also dramatic and full of surprises.
All of this, I learnt from watching the films of directors like Roman Polanski. These directors discovered that you can achieve something incredible, an incredible film, with very little means, and as I was producing and creating the story, I also wanted to be as creative as possible with the least tools as possible, in terms of scenery and characters.
> In one point of your film, it is said that “the real sanctions are (…) the responsibilities we inflict to ourselves”. Could you expand on this idea?
For one, I think that subjecting oneself to the system is what the system wants us to do, and that’s what the teacher speaks about, a kind of “voluntary” submission – but in a way, I also think that every constraint that we choose for ourselves are all different ways of self-punishment.
When you have disappointments, you go to the opposite end, and you choose to constraint yourself to avoid those disappointments again. Sometimes it can be helpful – disappointments with freedom, for example, can bring constraints of method that can turn out to be an excellent source of creativity. But sometimes, our own constraints can prove to be far worse trials than any punishments you may suffer because of acting otherwise.
At the point of the interview, Cyril was writing a TV show for France 3, while also developing an idea for a feature film with an expansion of some of the themes from “A Punishment”.