Jul 16 2008

“An Arabia straight from the imagination”

Published by at 15:23 under Industry

Am Cader vum Europe NOW! um Karlovy Vary Festival huet den Paul Kieffer säin Film “Nuits d’Arabie” virgestallt.

In Paul Kieffer‘s latest film Arabian Nights [trailer], classical melodrama and a contemporary story meet and mingle when a Luxembourg train conductor falls in love with a mysterious girl from Algeria.

Cineuropa: What is the origin of the story of the film?

Paul Kieffer: The first version of the storyline came to me on a train. I was wondering how I could weld together the structure of a classical melodrama and a contemporary story set in Luxembourg when the train conductor came to punch my ticket. At that moment, the last images of Josef von Sternberg’s Morocco were on my mind and I wondered what needed to happen to this conductor so that at the end of a love story he could find himself wondering into the desert like Marlene Dietrich.

The film industry in Luxembourg is rather small, much like the audience for films in Luxembourgish. Does this influence the way in which you work?

Films in Luxembourgish can do very well on the tiny interior market. They sometimes attract up to 10% of the local population, which amounts to about 40,000 tickets. It is true, however, that films that are not in Luxembourgish are not as interesting for the locals. Arabian Nights proposes a compromise in which the locals speak in Luxembourgish when amongst themselves and speak French when with they are French-speakers, much like in real life. This helps the Luxembourg audiences to identify themselves with the hero while the film perhaps also becomes somewhat more accessible for those who do not speak the language. Besides the language issue, it was our idea from the start to make a film that was very much open to the outside world as well as typically Luxembourg at the same time. 

You have also worked with Jules Werner as an actor in the theatre. Was the role of Georges written with him in mind? What did he bring to the role?
In the first drafts of the screenplay, the character was older, and it was only halfway through, when the character became younger, that I thought of Jules for the role. During the preproduction of the film, we did a play together and during this time we also worked on the character of Georges. I am convinced that it is in large part due to the natural and discreet style of Jules’ acting that the character of Georges is such a sympathetic and, I hope, credible character. 

The film sees the Arab world as something that is quite abstract and exotic, and the film changes from something realistic to something more fantastic as the story develops. How did you work on the differences and, later, the mix of these two extremes?
The film adopts Georges’ view of the world throughout. Since there are very few Maghrebi immigrants in Luxembourg, for Georges, Yamina and her world are something exotic and almost unreal, also because the things the young woman tells Georges about her past are more based on fables than autobiography. When Georges falls in love with Yamina he immediately starts to question the banal but comfortable reality he has known until then. And when he leaves for the unknown, in search of his lost lover, he does not really travel into contemporary Algeria as much as he travels straight to the Arabia of his imagination. It is in this world, more or less fantastic, that the ordinary train conductor can become, for a short time, a hero of a movie.

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Am Cader vum Europe NOW! um Karlovy Vary Festival huet den Paul Kieffer säin Film “Nuits d’Arabie” virgestallt.

In Paul Kieffer‘s latest film Arabian Nights [trailer], classical melodrama and a contemporary story meet and mingle when a Luxembourg train conductor falls in love with a mysterious girl from Algeria.

Cineuropa: What is the origin of the story of the film?

Paul Kieffer: The first version of the storyline came to me on a train. I was wondering how I could weld together the structure of a classical melodrama and a contemporary story set in Luxembourg when the train conductor came to punch my ticket. At that moment, the last images of Josef von Sternberg’s Morocco were on my mind and I wondered what needed to happen to this conductor so that at the end of a love story he could find himself wondering into the desert like Marlene Dietrich.

The film industry in Luxembourg is rather small, much like the audience for films in Luxembourgish. Does this influence the way in which you work?

Films in Luxembourgish can do very well on the tiny interior market. They sometimes attract up to 10% of the local population, which amounts to about 40,000 tickets. It is true, however, that films that are not in Luxembourgish are not as interesting for the locals. Arabian Nights proposes a compromise in which the locals speak in Luxembourgish when amongst themselves and speak French when with they are French-speakers, much like in real life. This helps the Luxembourg audiences to identify themselves with the hero while the film perhaps also becomes somewhat more accessible for those who do not speak the language. Besides the language issue, it was our idea from the start to make a film that was very much open to the outside world as well as typically Luxembourg at the same time. 

You have also worked with Jules Werner as an actor in the theatre. Was the role of Georges written with him in mind? What did he bring to the role?
In the first drafts of the screenplay, the character was older, and it was only halfway through, when the character became younger, that I thought of Jules for the role. During the preproduction of the film, we did a play together and during this time we also worked on the character of Georges. I am convinced that it is in large part due to the natural and discreet style of Jules’ acting that the character of Georges is such a sympathetic and, I hope, credible character. 

The film sees the Arab world as something that is quite abstract and exotic, and the film changes from something realistic to something more fantastic as the story develops. How did you work on the differences and, later, the mix of these two extremes?
The film adopts Georges’ view of the world throughout. Since there are very few Maghrebi immigrants in Luxembourg, for Georges, Yamina and her world are something exotic and almost unreal, also because the things the young woman tells Georges about her past are more based on fables than autobiography. When Georges falls in love with Yamina he immediately starts to question the banal but comfortable reality he has known until then. And when he leaves for the unknown, in search of his lost lover, he does not really travel into contemporary Algeria as much as he travels straight to the Arabia of his imagination. It is in this world, more or less fantastic, that the ordinary train conductor can become, for a short time, a hero of a movie.

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One Response to ““An Arabia straight from the imagination””

  1. adminon 11 Sep 2008 at 14:32

    Jules Werner • Actor

    January 11, 2007
    Shooting Star 2007 – Luxembourg
    Luxembourg actor Jules Werner trained at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and has worked in the theatre and cinema both at home and abroad. He is currently working on the upcoming Paul Kieffer film Nuits d’Arabie (lit. Nights of Arabia) in Algeria. Cineuropa met with him just before his departure.

    Cineuropa: What sort of film projects are you attracted to?
    Jules Werner: One thing that films should never loose out of sight is that they are entertainment. That is very important. But at the same time, entertainment does not necessarily have to mean cheap mass entertainment or formula-driven work. It should try be innovative and surprising, but at the same time not be aimed solely at the small part of the population that likes to sit in corners and talk about deep stuff.
    (

    Why would a director choose you for his film project?
    I find this a very difficult question. I think that what I do, I do it well. I think I have the right amount of talent, combined with technical know-how and technique that I’ve learnt via experience and through drama school. On top of that, for my current film, Paul Kieffer chose me because we have worked together in the theatre and we got along really well, and when he wrote the script, he thought about me.

    And then the Shooting Stars…
    …is sort of the next step. First you got noticed in your country, and now this is sort of the next step outwards.

    Where do you see yourself one year from now, with the experience of the Shooting Stars behind you?
    As an actor you really never know where you are going to be. It could be one part that you do, one contact that you make, one director that you meet [that changes everything]. That is what is exciting about this job, but at the same time frightening. What is great about the Shooting Stars is that you try to push your luck a bit. Quite a lot is dependent on luck, but here you kind of get a helping hand.

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