Festivals - Canneseries 2020: Moloch - Our interview with the cast

By Mulder, Cannes, Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, 11 october 2020

Q: First of all I would like to congratulate you on Moloch which I think is an excellent series mixing thriller and fantasy. I recently discovered the first two episodes and I was totally won over. Can you tell us about the origin of the subject ?

Arnaud Malherbe : Yes absolutely. At the very beginning, the idea was to make a mental thriller, in fact a little bit based on In treatment (In Analysis) at the very beginning. My desire was to make a fantastic In Treatment thriller, and as I was writing and developing the bible and the concept and all that, it's a bit extended to a city and I also wanted to treat things in a more graphic way, to go to the sea, to be an architecture, in short, the series came out of the shrink's office to become a normal series in quotation marks with a large number of sets, and that's the genesis of the series.

Q : When I discovered the first two episodes, I thought as much about Stephen King's novel Firestarter, the X Files series (especially the episode The Arsonist), but also about David Fincher's thrillers, whose plot is based as much on a quality script as a perfect interpretation. Can you tell us about your sources of inspiration and the development of the script ?

Arnaud Malherbe : They are great references. What I like about what you're saying is that I think what we tried to do was to take on the genre of fantasy thriller with visual desires and at the same time to tell things that are perhaps a little social and political and intimate at the same time, so that's part of what I was saying just yesterday, this desire to tell the story of society through a fantastic detour, and in a way that's what they were doing in X files as well. It so happens that the episode of X Files, the incendiary one, I haven't seen but I would be very curious to see it for the moment.

Q : Hello Arnaud Valois, can you tell us about your character Tom ?

Arnaud Valois: Tom is a cop. Aranud and Marion suggested me an alternative version of the cop that you usually find in thriller series, detective something a little bit deeper, maybe in his psychology. Besides the series is much more than, as ben Arnaud used to say, it's really a psychological series where we take the themes and codes of the thriller but a real emphasis on it. So I was also able, thanks to the presence of Marine, to look for something a little softer, maybe a little more personal, that it is the incarnation of a cowboy.


Q : The main duo composed of Olivier Gourmet and Marine Vacth works wonderfully. Can you tell us about your collaboration with them ?

Arnaud Valois: I have almost all my scenes with Marion. It has been a total pleasure to work with her, I think that in this series she shows all the intensity that she is capable of in the complexity of this character of Louise who is at the end quite tortured. I met Olivier several times. He is a very great actor. I was very happy to be at his side.

Q : By paralleling the investigation of a young journalist and a psychiatrist, your film takes on two different points of view. How did you find the right approach to put as much emphasis on the psychiatrist's methods as on the journalistic investigation ?

Arnaud Malherbe : That's what we wanted to do with Marion, I think it's to weave together her two paths so that in a certain way they help and save each other while advancing in the investigation.Between quotation marks technique to try to understand the origin of the fire without puns and at the same time that there is thus a double what Arnaud was saying in fact is that there is a psychological and intimate side in any case which is strong and that is to say that they both have a trauma and a course and that in their relation which is by small touches, small dose a little humour of respect, of fear there is I have the impression that we tried to do something anyway, to create something a little bit pretty that is perhaps a little subsidiary and that we had the impression that finally almost the survey was a pretext to make them go somewhere together to the same place what and it is once again there is perhaps from somewhere to save each other a little bit without telling each other too much what their whole relationship is rather modest.

Marion Festraëts : This allowed us to have two views on the events but also on society because, unlike a classic police investigation where we go looking for the culprit, the clues, what we are used to seeing in a detective story is there with this shrink we have someone who investigates in people's heads in a certain way and the journalist who is perhaps in a more global approach on society, the events, which will try to understand what is happening in a more global way, but without having the facilities of a police officer and having to overcome a certain number of obstacles to try to understand what is happening.

Q : The first two episodes show a great deal of attention to aesthetics. Can you tell us about the importance of this aspect to the success of a series like this one ?

Arnaud Malherbe : It was a desire I had, what was really at the origin of the project in fact. From the first notes of intention and my first exchanges with Xavier the producer. In fact, I brought back photos and a lot of pictorial references and there was already a real desire to create an atmosphere and a city that was not very determined. I never really managed to conceptualize the thing and say why but I wanted to do that... Really because you can do the same kind of series as with something more naturalist and more Paris today for example but I think there was already a desire by SF but a fantastic shift and I felt that the set...

Marion Festraëts : There was a universality also in fact not to situate this in a very recognizable and marked out place by recomposing a city that is a kind of Gotham city also which is a bit decayed and a bit modern.

Arnaud Malherbe : just with a little less means. The thing is that from the moment precisely when you are not blocked by a geography by a city where you are not determined in Paris in Cherbourg, in Marseille here. In fact, what can prevail in our choice of scenery is really the aesthetics, that is to say, ok, I wanted a sea, for example water, because that was logical, of course. We work with fire, so we say to ourselves, we're going to see the aesthetics of the water, which will be very close, and that's also why it goes to the pool all the time. These are things that the spectator doesn't necessarily analyze, but in reality there are all these little things. In short, an example on the swimming pool, these were things that we were very committed to, not being in a normal swimming pool in quotation marks where we would see the children at 4:30 pm and all that stuff, it's an art deco swimming pool in Brussels and these things and each of the sets is really wanted, assumed either by an aesthetic shift a little bit finally chic or futuristic between quotation marks like the tower at the beginning here, or a little retro, or not too dated, or the motel at the end of episode six which makes a little bit of American movies we do not know too much and here it was all this kind of two at a time of freedom in the way to create a small world. That's what freedom is all about.

Marion Festraëts: a little less means, but that's not identified, so it can be a little bit everywhere.

Xavier Matthieu: there was a real desire to tell ourselves that we shouldn't know where we are, we are in a city we hadn't paid attention to the signs with the registration plates, and to tell ourselves that in reality we are not in a city that we know, there should be no cultural references if they are European, Francophile, but European can be more global, and we shouldn't have regional references. and to say to oneself, "It's happening in Paris, Lyon etc.". We wanted the spectator to wonder what we were actually doing.

Marion Festraëts: nor temporal. It could have been ten years ago or in ten years' time we don't know.

Arnaud Malherbe : some elements of decoration. There is a moment in the series in fact it's an intercom but we pretend it's a phone and it's connected with a wire to the wall and it looks like an old phone in fact so it's also things that allow, it's small things but yes we don't date too much what.

Q: The theme of grief is important in this series. Can you tell us about this theme ?

Arnaud Malherbe: We said to ourselves, we don't really know where it comes from.

Marion Festraëts: the desire to kill people.

Arnaud Malherbe: the desire to kill people, no. We are always divided. I think it's a mixture in fact of The characters are also a part of the story, and the characters are anchored from the moment we want to work with them. That's because the desire that we had in fact was that there should be an echo to what's happening in the city and therefore echo a trauma, in this case Gabriel's, So they had to have an echo with the theme of fire, so very quickly the idea is what the maximum thing that we can try to live with, but which is absolutely terrifying and heavy and which can possibly push us to freak out, is perhaps losing a child is therefore losing a child by fire according to what makes it possible to put fire also on his back and thus to take the spectator into the idea that perhaps he is linked in one way or another to all this. I don't think we should get rid of the playful character of when we write. I don't think that we are always necessarily penetrated personally by something. We are obviously irrigated by everything we are when we write, but there is also a real desire to play with the spectator, to scare ourselves a little, to intrigue. I am also thinking of the playful character.

Marion Festraëts : We also wanted the characters to be a little damaged inside, so they are mourning characters who themselves have things to rebuild and who are in charge, in Gabriel's case, of helping others to rebuild themselves, so there is a kind of rift like that between what he is supposed to do for others and what he is incapable of doing for himself. We see it in the episodes that follow, so we were also interested in digging that.

Q : Moloch shows that it is still possible to make great fantasy series and we can only encourage our audience to discover this series. Can you tell us about your attraction to this genre ?

Arnaud Malherbe : For me it's very strong. The first short film I made was a short film called Dans leur peau with Fred Testot and it was a fantastic short film with a very strong fantasy premise and I think we're nourished by that because once again Marion and I, I think we have this tropism to think that through us and later through the fantastic detour we can talk about the real of potentially in any case. This cannot say that the answer here is always potentially fine enough. Here I've just directed a feature film, which is a fantastic feature film, Ogre.

Q : What was the most difficult scene to shoot in this series and why ?

Arnaud Malherbe : All the scenes with Arnaud (Valois).

Arnaud Valois : It cost the production a lot of money to make and redo the scenes.

Arnaud Malherbe : The most difficult scenes to shoot... there were some difficult moments. The whole ending, the motel, the pool, the little girl. The torches in fact it's sometimes well passed but there are still all the time small galleys that make us take time. We organize everything in real life. So we have stuntmen who go up in flames, and I remember one scene in the parking lot that was quite long because it took us three hours to get back upright - and there everything was organized with a trigger and the guy had to go up in flames when his friend pressed the thing. Obviously we do the whole thing and it goes off and then it doesn't work and we finished the scene with another stuntman, someone with a small blowtorch on his knees behind the guy and so we frame it up so we don't catch the guy on his knees with his small blowtorch doing it, so it was a waste of time and all that has to happen. Once we have SFX anyway, there's inevitably a waste of time and energy.

Q : Music is an important part of this series, can you tell us about your collaboration with Flemming Nordkrog ?

Arnaud Malherbe: Flemming is a friend and a neighbor from Montreuil, whom we met through friends, I don't know anymore. Fleming had done the music for season 2 of Chefs that we used to have for France 2 and of course he came to Moloch and we actually started working in music long before the
Turning. I told him. In fact we had a little bit in our dream of 2049. This sound world or atheist world with tablecloths with things. I asked him in a certain way to scare me and music and then he created the main themes, he created them before shooting and I remember that I made Marion listen to it, my children with headphones and everything and the little ones, it's scary? it's not bad we're on the right track and I think he did an extraordinary job.

Q : Can you tell us a few words about your new movie the much awaited Ogre with Ana Girardot ?

Arnaud Malherbe : So I'm in the sixth week of editing the film should be finished at the end of February early March. So we shot in the Morvan for seven weeks and we were stopped by the covid. We resumed and everything went well, we passed between the drops. It's a fantastic film about the story of a mother and her son Karim in a small village in the depths of the Morvan region of Europe. The mother is seduced by the village doctor who is played by Samuel Jouy, a young boy, and the boy is convinced that this man comes to devour them and that he is an ogre, and the story of the film is that this may be true.


Synopsis :
In an industrial and labyrinthine seaside town, strangers inexplicably catch fire. Louise, a young journalist, and Gabriel, a bereaved psychiatrist, lead the investigation.

Moloch (2019; 6 episodes)
A series directed by Arnaud Malherbe
Produced by Xavier Matthieu
Screenplay by Arnaud Malherbe and Marion Festraëts
With Olivier Gourmet, Marine Vacth, Arnaud Valois, Marc Zinga, Alice Verset, Soufiane Guerrab, Jan Hammenecker, Julie-Anne Roth, Laurent Capelluto
Music by Flemming Nordkrog
Director of photography: Christophe Nuyens
Edited by Floriane Allier, Aurique Delannoy
Production ARTE France, CALT Studio, Belga Productions
Release date: October 22, 2020 (Arte) (France)
Running time: 52 minutes