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An Interview with Julien Botzanowski, Director of The Hermits

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2024

Films directed by Julien Botzanowski on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie The Hermits - in a few words, what's it about?

 

Astrid and Tristan have a long drive to make; they stop off at the house of a deceased uncle for the night. But an antisocial trio is hiding in the woods nearby… and they turn out to be total psychos.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing The Hermits?

 

The main house made me write this film. I discovered it by night, autumn 2019: I was working on a play, this house was our accommodation. I saw that big window with the vines below, the little road and its street lamps. I told myself: “It would be so scary if I were alone here with someone under this light watching in my direction.” (That gave birth to a scene you can see in the trailer.) One year later, I asked for meeting the owner. He agreed to loan me his house so I started to write. At first it was meant to be a very dark and rock’n’roll gory comedy, with characters à la Rob Zombie. But quickly the serious potential got the upper hand… and that’s lucky, because I don’t know how to write comedies.

 

What can you tell us about your movie's approach to horror?

 

My films can be eccentric or unexpected. With this one I wanted to embrace a complete classic horror. No twists and turns or complicated imagery, only special characters and a tightened action (the story takes place in one single night). Regarding style, I had my eye on the naïve directness of the 1980s.

 

A few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I tried to keep it simple and mainly focus on the cast. The story and my directing weren’t that important, the characters had to be the principal matter. They’re all socially maladapted (and here, physically isolated), hence the title: The trio wants to escape society (each one with their own personal reasons and ways), Astrid may have visions, Tristan is agoraphobic, Loup has been traumatised… Always remembering these feelings of sadness, frustration, unease, incompatibility, was my directorial approach.

 

Do talk about The Hermits' cast, and why exactly these people?

 

They all have different ways of working that really tallied with their respective characters. When I was writing, Fabien Hintenoch (Charlot) and Capucine Lamarque (Jeanne) were already there: I had made films with both of them separately, and they’d never acted together whereas they’ve been friends for 15 years, so the time had come to watch them have fun. Straight after the first script’s version, I thought of Sylvie Tonarelli (Astrid) whom I had met on a short film a few years before. She naturally had all the delicate and moony look I wanted for this character. She had already acted with Adrien Malvoisin (Tristan) which I didn’t know, but it made me want to see how that worked between them. Emmanuelle Escourrou (Ma) had played a beautiful part in a quite cult French horror film, and when I contacted her I found out she was by chance living in our region; she fully got involved in this character. Finally Thomas Lesserteur (Loup), my most wonderful accident: I cast him when the previous actor for this role vanished; he saved our shoot several times and made my idea of Loup clearer.

 

You of course also have to talk about the film's main location, and what was it like filming there?

 

One word: Suffocating. We shot in June 2021 in South France, it was so hot… and not even daytime! This old house kept the heat in its carpets and padded walls… and the dust too. When we arrived for our installation day, a dead flies' cemetery was waiting upstairs. Electricity didn’t conform to today’s standards, and power cuts occurred the two last days (great for our poor DOP). We had hives too, and got attacked by angry bees.

 

What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

That felt studious, because time was so short. After 2 days or so for the day scenes and the hideout sequence, we had 10 nights in the house. Everything was shot by night for real. But in June sun dies at 10PM and sky starts to lighten around 5AM. Seven hours is very little, even if we could cheat to exceed sometimes. However this nocturnal mood created something precious for the film.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie?

 

The Hermits is now my most awarded film in festivals. We got Best Actor, Director, Feature, Kill… in different countries. For the audience: We finally have a French screening next month (another fest), so we’ll see!

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

My next feature is Nénuphar (Water Lily). It is ready to come out. We finished it a few months ago. In relation to The Hermits: Same DOP, assistant director and main actor (Thomas Lesserteur). 

Trailer: https://youtu.be/OHXqB-qRt9Q

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I have always been writing (and reading) stories. After high school I found out I couldn’t do anything else, so I studied camerawork to learn more technical knowledge. Now it’s been nearly ten years since I started in independent cinema and theatre. I am beginning to work as an author too. I’ll keep on telling stories in any possible way.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Hermits?

 

Tranches de Vi (Slices of Vi) & Rutabaga are my most distributed films—different visions of the horror genre. To whomever looks for a broke surrealist flick, Au Thé des Vivants (Tea Party with the Living) is also available on V.O.D. and DVD. And for a 1-hour literary & animated experience, Dear Ed is publicly released on YouTube.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

A director who loves and admires his crews, and who doesn’t talk much on set. I’m improving on this last point (maybe).

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Jan Švankmajer, Wes Craven, Murnau, Pascal Laugier, Aja, Carpenter, Maïwenn, Lynch, Lucio Fulci [Lucio Fulci bio - click here]... more recently: Ari Aster, Robert Eggers.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Švankmajer’s Alice, Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Boutonnat’s Giorgino, De Palma’s Carrie, Mary Lambert’s Pet Semetary… More recent: It Follows, Babadook… It is hard to stop.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

I don’t watch what I could dislike, so I cannot really name them. Generally I am a good audience. Let’s say I deplore generic films with great means and communication but no content or originality in the end.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

To follow the news about The Hermits: https://www.facebook.com/LesAutarciques

And the upcoming Nénuphar: https://www.facebook.com/NenupharFilm

 

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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

OK, let’s end with an The Hermits-anecdote. The first scene we shot was the intro (80s’ classic: a girl hunted by villains in the woods). The expected actress called me in the afternoon: She was in the hospital. The whole team was already driving to come on set, we had to shoot. So the actress gave me Olivia Couget’s phone number to ask her to replace her at the last minute. I had never met her, she’d never heard of me before; so she got a call from an unknown guy saying: “Hey, can you come to my forest tonight to get killed until 1AM?” She said yes and drove one hour for us, whereas she had rehearsals for a play the next morning. And she was great, everyone loved her immediately. Yeah, that’s how the shoot began.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thank you for your articles.

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
starring
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry

 

directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
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the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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