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The Man Who Hides the Forest

Bertrand Mandico, Philippe Bober

France

synopsis

In 1988, Perestroika is moving across the Soviet Union.
A modern art museum in Paris hears about a lost tribe that has been discovered deep in the Siberian forest. They hire a famous - but somewhat passé - film director named Walerian to head up a river expedition into Siberia with famous works of French modern art on board. Walerian’s mission is to make a film about the journey and to capture the reactions of people who have never seen modern art before. But Walerian is not remotely interested in French modern art, or in Siberian tribes. He is set on making his greatest and possibly last work. He seizes this opportunity where, once in Siberia, he is sure to have full reign over the production. The expedition sets sail on a windy upriver journey through an increasingly hostile forest. On board, his son Dante, who assists Walerian, and the motley crew is preyed upon by an array of insects and diseases. The journey is treacherous and frought with mishaps, but Walerian continues to drag onward, right to the bitter end. It’s not until his son is blinded that he finally decides to abandon the mission. Part of the crew has left, the Picabia painting stolen by Russian military, the Tinguely used to fix the motor, while the Klein painting has been half-eaten by insects. Walerian goes into the forest to film the Klein’s slow deterioration
frame-by-frame. When the film is projected, human figures can be made out in the background huddling around the painting with great curiosity. It seems the museum has unwittingly found the lost tribe it was looking for.

intention

The Pompidou Centre in Paris asked me one day to think about a film to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Nothing happened with my Pompidou commission, but that is where the idea started for The Man Who Hides the Forest. At first, the works that I chose for the film were associated with particular concepts in art, or with Parisian snobbery. Duchamp’s urinal is an archetypal example of French modern art (it has been the main feature of subway posters advertising the Centre). But my primary delight was to immerse works of modern art into the heart of a wild forest, and watch them gradually return to their original form, to organic matter. It is a harsh reality that Klein paintings experience even in museums, where they are continuously disintegrating. When they are exhibited, deposits of blue pigments pile up on the ground, much to the embarrassment of curators. Whereas a Tinguely sculpture can suddenly become useful in the middle of a remote river if, for example, a motor breaks down. The disintegration of modern art takes place against the backdrop of an adventure film, thus reviving the spirit of performance cinema. In the 70s Herzog, Coppola, and several others, gave their film crews the opportunity to live extraordinary human adventures, that merged with the plots of the films. The main character Walerian is inspired by the right-to-the-bitter-end nature of these director/performers from the 70s. He almost acts like a missionary, brandishing a camera instead of a cross. He gives life back to dead creatures by means of stop-motion animation, he acts like a demigod resuscitating the dead, and then plays his illusionist’s trick and screens the results in front of dumbfounded spectators. Walerian drags his crew into the deepest reaches of Siberia for an adventure that plays out in a setting that has rarely been seen on film, in one of the vastest and wildest places on the planet. The story unfolds at the time of Perestroika, a period of chaos when borders were opened and haughty Europe sweet talked Russia and condescendingly treated it like an underdeveloped country. The time and the place seem particularly well-suited for this artistic and aquatic adventure.

budget & financing

The film will be produced by Coproduction Office’s French bureau, Parisienne de production and co-produced by its German sister-company, Essential Filmproduktion. The two companies have co-produced seven films together so far. Three are completed (Songs From the Second Floor, Import Export, and You the Living); and four are currently in production or post-production (Lourdes by Jessica Hausner, Summer 1953 by Shirin Neshat, Memory Hotel by Heinrich Sabl, and Dau by Ilya Khrzhanovsky). Parisienne will raise financing from France and Essential from Germany. Both companies together should be in a position to raise more than 60% of the €1,5m budget. A third partner will join the project later. This Siberian fantasy has yet to find a definitive homeland. Neither France nor Germany offer suitable locations for this script, and locations have been scouted in Northern Russia, as well as the Ukraine. Additional scouting will be done in Karelia, Estonia, Finland, and Northern Scandinavia. As it is not so easy to transplant a crew and equipment across borders into Russia or the Ukrainian in the middle of a shoot, we wish to find all of our locations on either one side or the other of these borders before looking for our third partner. We will then look for a partner with whom to coproduce the film, based on production requirements, locations, and financing possibilities.

distribution & sales

The most successful European films, in terms of box-office outside the country of origin, have traditionally been “auteur” films. In the past decade, they were directed by filmmakers such as Ken Loach, Michael Haneke, Aki Kaurismäki, Nanni Moretti, Pedro Almodovar or Lars von Trier. It is notable that these directors became famous after making youthful works of rare audacity and originality. The Man Who Hides the Forest is meant to open the way for further works by Bertrand Mandico, a young director with a strong body of work in other formats (animation, music videos, commercials). His first feature length film will undoubtedly incite discussion, while the iconoclastic denouement will intrigue audiences and press alike. Coproduction Office, a company that is committed to marketing and selling prototypes, will handle the international sales for the film, that could meet a public beyond the limits of the cinephile audience and be released in a large number of countries.

"I want every French person to get out their instrument [...] and go out into the streets to show [...] what they are capable of." (Jack Lang, French Minister of Culture, 1988)
5515-bertrand-mandico
Bertrand Mandico

Scriptwriter, Film Director

96-philippe-bober
Philippe Bober

Sales

bureau@coproductionoffice.eu

production notes

original title
L’Homme Qui Cache la Forêt

directed by
Bertrand Mandico

in co-production with
Essential Filmproduktion - Germany

total production budget
€ 1.577.000