69th Venice International Film Festival
Director: Alberto Barbera
Out of Competition
Gwynplaine has a scar on his face, giving him a kind of permanent smile. Abandoned by the Comprachicos, who had kidnapped and slashed his face a few years earlier, he is taken in by Ursus together with a blind girl, Déa. They move from village to village, performing a show whose star is the now grown-up Gwynplaine. Everywhere he goes his smile evokes laughter and emotion in the audience that adores him. Everyone wants to see the famous “smiling man”. Life goes on until it is discovered that this scarred man is the heir to a large and noble family. Giddy with this sudden wealth and the carnal passions of a duchess, he distances himself from the only two people who have ever loved him for what he is.
language: French - s/t English, Italian
Gérard Depardieu, Marc-André Grondin, Christa Theret, Emmanuelle Seigner
It was my dream to adapt Victor Hugo’s L’homme qui rit for the cinema. I wanted to make a great adventure film and tell a wonderful and beautiful story that is both poetic and deeply human just like Victor Hugo’s novel. I wanted to treat it as a fable to make the timeless and universal nature of the story livelier. I wanted to fascinate, capture and move the audience so they could rediscover the infantile pleasure of sitting and listening to a great story that has deep repercussions. The fi lm allowed me to deal with different subject: physical diversity, love and modernity. I have always been especially moved by films that have a “monster” as a hero. Whether in novels or films, the figure of the human monster is universal and really touches us, not because they are physically different but because we can always perceive the “monster” inside of us. Also, the love story of L’homme qui rit is sublime. The amorous confl ict that torments Gwynplaine is truly human. On the one hand there is Déa, the blind girl that he saved as a baby; on the other is the duchess. Finally, this story from the past also talks to us about our society—a society of entertainment, our importance of finding idols for the masses, the abyss between the rich and the poor, the difficulty of changing social class, the impotence of politicians to change things, the supremacy of appearances, idealism defeated by corruption... I want to offer the audience that same delicious feeling I had when going to the cinema as a child—the lights dimmed and I dived joyfully into a fascinating world. I let myself be swept away by a great story and by characters who touched me deeply and who I believed really existed.