Michel Hazanavicius Defends Holocaust Animated Film ‘The Most Precious Of Cargoes’ At Cannes

Michel Hazanavicius said that when it came to making his Holocaust feature The Most Precious of Cargoes “the question didn’t even arise” when making it animated. “I would never want to make a live film on this.”

The Artist Oscar winner adapted from the Jean-Claude Grumberg novel. The story follows a poor woodcutter and his wife who, once upon a time, lived in a great forest. Cold, hunger, poverty and a war raging all around them meant their lives were very hard. One day, the woodcutter’s wife rescues a baby girl thrown from one of the many trains that constantly pass through the forest.

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Some critics have taken umbrage with the Cannes Competition title and its approach to its portrayal of horrifying scenes. The Screen Daily review wrote, “The worst decision comes in a late sequence showing still, stylized black and white images of the faces of the Auschwitz dead: hellish visions that are crassly coercive in their attempt to elicit stunned horror. There is a difference between the graphic representation of such images in documentary and their decorative amplification here — in sharp contrast with those films, notably last year’s Competition standout The Zone of Interest, they have reminded us of the artistic power, and the ethical decency of not showing.”

“Movies that rise to huge polemics — it shows how you burn your fingers with this subject,” said Hazanavicius.

“It’s impossible to show what really happens — if you don’t show what really happened, there’s a big risk you end up telling a lie,” he responded to a reporter’s query on animating the Holocaust.

Hazanavicius said he felt that animation lent itself to portraying a hard subject versus a live-version: “You don’t have to ask people to pretend that they are departees, that they are going to die.”

“We felt this (animation) was a suitable way not to resolve, but with dignity to deal with the problems of representation.”

Hazanavicius said his north star in making the movie was Grumberg’s material, who he worked closely with in bringing to the screen. “I drank his words, he was a fantastic guide and a real authority in these matters.”

The movie received a 10-minute standing ovation at its premiere last night.

The voice cast includes the late Jean-Louis Trintignant, Grégory Gadebois, Dominique Blanc and Denis Podalydès.

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