Shot on former mining sites in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the mini-series “Germinal” was able to take advantage of the tourist closure of the latter, following the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular the Historic Mining Center of Lewarde
Germinal : great novel by Émile Zola
Published in 1885 by Émile Zola, Germinal is in line with the works of the novelist. Indeed, it is once again a question of a French society in which two classes clash under the Second Empire: that of the privileged and that of the most deprived.
The success of the book (published in a hundred countries) will lead to several adaptations on the big screen. The most famous of these is the Germinal directed by Claude Berri. Released in 1993, it brings together a five-star cast including Renaud, Gérard Depardieu, Miou-Miou, Judith Henry and Jean Carmet. With a budget of 165 million francs (a staggering figure at the time for a French production), he collected 11 nominations for the Césars (for two statuettes received).
As a reminder, Germinal follows Étienne Lantier, an unemployed person who arrives in the North of France. On site, he will work in the mine and discover the misery and injustices experienced by these workers in the subsoil of the earth. The fight and the strikes will then begin.
27 years after Claude Berri’s film, France 2 has therefore decided to produce the first television adaptation of Germinal. Created by Julien Lilti and directed by David Hourrègue, the mini-series caused a sensation at the last Series Mania Festival, receiving the Grand Prix du Public. Suffice to say that it will be eagerly awaited by viewers. Especially since the cast is well supplied: Thierry Godard, Alix Poisson, Guillaume de Tonquédec or even Sami Bouajila.
Back to Lewarde
Like the 1993 film, the shooting of the series Germinal took place on former mining sites located in Lille, Valenciennes and their surroundings, such as Fort de Seclin. Among them is the Lewarde Historical Mining Center. The latter, however, was not the production’s first choice. Indeed, it was initially the mine of the old Oignies pit that was chosen as the backdrop. However, as the site was not sufficiently secure, the technical team therefore fell back on Lewarde’s.
Armed with a hundred extras (some of whom are the sons or grandsons of miners, as was the case for the feature film by Claude Berri), the shooting of the series Germinal was especially able to benefit from the closure of the Center following the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, the shots took place in February 2021, or the period during which France was in a situation of second confinement. During this period, tourist places, such as museums, were closed to the public. This was therefore the case for the Lewarde site which receives up to 150,000 visitors per year (which makes it the most important mining site in France).
The filming team was therefore able to take advantage of the absence of the public to be able to take much quieter shots, as the director David Horregue points out on the weekly Life :
Investing in this kind of historic site is very complicated, because it is above all a museum. The idea is to bring it back to life while respecting the integrity of the premises.
In the end, after filming in Lewarde for several days, the filming of the series Germinal ended in a Belgian studio. But the essential could be assured. Viewers only have to validate the final result.