Winner of the Grand Prix of the Cannes Film Festival 2021 (tied with “A hero”), Juho Kuosmanen offers us a journey full of gentleness and humanity on which his director, the Finnish Juho Kuosmanen returns.
If the Palme d’Or of the 74th Cannes Film Festival was awarded to a shock, Titanium, it is the softness and tenderness that dominate in the Grand Prix: Compartment N ° 6, crowned ex-aequo with A hero of Asghar Farhadi. Third feature film by Finnish Juho Kuosmanen, noticed with Olli Mäki in 2016, the latter takes us by train to Russia.
But the trip turns out to be full of surprises, for her heroine Laura (Seidi Haarla) as well as for the viewer. The latter will have the feeling of having traveled in a cocoon on arrival, thanks to this film which the director told us about when he returned to France (in Paris this time), a few days before its release in rooms.
DashFUN: How did you discover the novel from which the film is inspired? And why did you want to adapt it?
Juho kuosmanen : The writer, Rosa Liksom, is well known in Finland. And I had read his novels before because I liked his writing a lot. When this one was released in 2011, I read it immediately. It’s a very cinematographic novel that took place on a train, and I liked it. Just like this story between these two human beings who meet. Many elements made that I saw the interest of adapting it in film.
The process took a very long time, and at times I wanted to drop this idea. But every time I took the train, it kept coming back. There were a lot of elements in the novel so I didn’t know at first how I was going to be able to deal with it all. But I couldn’t forget it, and it kept coming back to my mind.
If the basic novel was very cinematic, what did you change as a co-writer to make its story your own?
We deleted a lot of things, because there were several periods in Laura’s life, especially her childhood. We preferred to focus only on the train journey. There were also changes when we did the scouting, and the route is not the same to begin with.
In the novel, we go to Mongolia on the Trans-Siberian. In the film, it’s from Moscow to Murmansk. There were also changes to the characters and the era: the book is set in the 1980s in the Soviet Union, while our story is set in the 1990s. In the late 1990s, even if that is not very clear.
If we are looking for simplicity or ease, it is because we are not really in the film we are making.
We made so many changes that, in the end, I asked Rosalie Liksom if it could still be said to be an adaptation. It might have been fairer to say that we were inspired by it. But she didn’t want to know anything and didn’t read anything. She told me to do whatever I wanted because it was my movie.
When she discovered him in Cannes in July, we were surprised because afterwards she came to tell me that I hadn’t changed anything. I plunged back into it after the festival, knowing that I had underlined, surrounded by moments of the novel. And I realized that there were still quite a few elements that I had taken for my film. But it all got mixed up in my head, because I thought it was from the script, from the movie. It was unconscious.
You mentioned the scouts: how much of an impact does that have on the writing and the storytelling in a film that relies on a journey like “Compartment N ° 6”?
The locations have played a huge role, yes. Because the landscapes are very important. When I write a screenplay, it’s more notes that I take. When I do the scouting, I see the places where I want to shoot, that I have to put it in the film. This is really very important to me and it allows me to determine where a scene can take place.
And since, at the beginning, the heroine had to go to Mongolia before her trip was between Moscow and Murmansk, you couldn’t lie, because it would have been too complicated. So that’s also why the route has changed. We still wondered if the content of the film would change if the destination changed. But not so much in the end. And it gave us the opportunity to use a little more of the landscapes and views that were there.
We imagine that, for a director, filming in a train brings its share of difficulties.
It was difficult and complicated, it’s true. But it’s always complicated to make a movie. And I think that if we are looking for simplicity or ease, it is because we are not really in it. It was complicated because that …