French icon Catherine Deneuve was visibly moved at the Cannes Film Festival’s press conference for Emmanuelle Bercot’s “Peaceful” (“De son vivant”) in which she stars as a grieving mother helping her terminally-ill son (Benoit Magimel) accept his fate along with a doctor (Dr. Gabriel Sara) and a nurse (Cecile de France).
The movie, produced by Les Films du Kiosque, is so far one of the most applauded films at the festival, although it’s surprisingly playing out of competition.
Fiction and reality became blurred during the filming of “Peaceful,” as Deneuve suffered a stroke on set in a hospital near Paris and spent several months resting, first at a hospital and then at home. Deneuve was eventually able to return to the production whose filming was delayed by eight months due to the pandemic.
The beloved actor, who was greeted with a heartfelt standing ovation at the film’s world premiere on Saturday (July 10), said that although she had been in Cannes dozens of times (first of which dates back to 40 years ago), she had “never been as moved (at Cannes) as I was last night.”
Popular on Variety
“We were all very moved last night. It was a very significant event for us, and for everyone. Not only for the Europeans, but for everyone, even those who couldn’t be here this year,” pointed out Deneuve, who also alluded to the fact that had fully recovered from her stroke, saying she “she was feeling fine.”
Deneuve said “a lot of things happened to her during the shoot of the film (…), first this terrible thing which created a particular situation with this film… It gave (the experience) a dimension, a strength and a power that made me look at things in a different way.” “That’s made my perception is very, very different,” said Deneuve.
The movie sheds light on the richly-layered relationship between a doctor, who is played by a real-life doctor Gabriel Sara, a nurse, and a patient who is dying from cancer and is in denial.
“Peaceful” also reunites Bercot with Deneuve and Magimel with whom she made her previous film, “Standing Tall,” which had world premiered on opening night at Cannes in 2015.
Bercot said the idea for “Peaceful” came to her after meeting Dr. Sara in New York following the screening of “Standing Tall” at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema festival at the Lincoln Center in 2016. Dr.Sara, who attended the press conference, said he was drawn to Bercot after discovering the film.
“I just inspired by her and felt that she could understand what I was living through as a doctor, I wanted to share my story with her when I saw her speak (at the New York premiere),” said the well-respected cancerologist, who then accepted to play his own role in the film.
Magimel, who delivered in the film an award-worthy performance, said he was also transformed by the film and had never read such a powerful script in his career. De France said the experience of making “Peaceful” and getting to know Sara also left a mark on her and made her want to celebrate every bit of life.
Studiocanal is representing the film in international markets and has already closed more than a dozen territories.
The film’s producer, Francois Kraus, said the Cannes’ world premiere marked a “beautiful landing” for the movie whose shoot was filled with obstacles. “It was a film which took a long time to shoot, first because of Catherine’s accident, and then because of the pandemic and the first lockdown in March 2020,” said Kraus. “We had to suspend the shoot once again and it was very difficult to get Dr. Sara to fly back to Paris from New York because the border between France and the U.S. was closed,” said Kraus, who produced the movie with Denis Pineau-Valencienne.
“We all stood tall together and felt deep down that we were making a unique movie, one that would be particularly moving, gripping and so well developed by Emmanuelle [Bercot],” said Kraus.