In 2016, Xavier Dolan directed “Juste la fin du monde”, a film adapted from the eponymous play by Jean-Luc Lagarce. This story tells of the return of Louis to his family, a suffering writer who knows he will soon die. If the word is never pronounced, we can understand what illness he suffers from, by looking at the autobiographical inspiration at the origin of this creation.
Just the end of the world, the great role of Gaspard Ulliel
In 2016, Quebec director Xavier Dolan presents Just the end of the world, his sixth film. A filmmaker of precocious genius, he adapted the eponymous play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, a French playwright and director who died in 1995. Little understood during his lifetime, he has been one of the most performed contemporary authors in France since his death. and adapted around the world. Xavier Dolan’s film, if it divided the critics during its presentation at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016, was nevertheless a success and gathered in France more than 1 million spectators in theaters.
He leaves the Croisette with the Grand Prix and the Ecumenical Jury Prize. In 2017, the film won three Césars: best director, best actor for Gaspard Ulliel and best editing. With the accidental death of Gaspard Ulliel on Wednesday January 19, 2022, at the age of 37, the film is now adorned, for its posterity, with a new and terrible emotion.
When Xavier Dolan adapts Jean-Luc Lagarce
Just the end of the world recounts the return to his family, after twelve years of absence, of Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), a young well-known writer. His return has a reason: suffering, he comes to announce his death, certain and imminent. But this return revives memories, tensions, brings to light differences and sufferings that affect each member of his family. There is his mother (Nathalie Baye), his younger sister Suzanne (Léa Seydoux), his older brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel) and his sister-in-law Catherine (Marion Cotillard).
The return of Louis will allow a clinical treatment of family madness, a social class struggle within this family, reconciliations and terrible confrontations. Finally, Louis will leave without having been able to announce the dramatic news to them.
It was Anne Dorval, the director’s favorite actress, who in the early 2010s advised him to take an interest in the play. Xavier Dolan had not been convinced on his first reading, before returning to it after the filming of Mommy. It was then a revelation:
Early that summer, I re-read – or read, really – Just the end of the world. I knew around page 6 that it would be my next film. My first as a man. I finally understood the words, the emotions, the silences, the hesitations, the nervousness, the disconcerting imperfections of the characters of Jean-Luc Lagarce. In defense of the play, I don’t think I made any serious attempt to read it at the time. In my defense, I think that, even trying, I could not have understood her.
Louis, fictional double of Jean-Luc Lagarce, suffering from AIDS
Born in February 1957 in Héricourt in Franche-Comté, to working-class parents at Peugeot, Jean-Luc Lagarce tears himself away from his condition, leaves his working class to become a troupe leader, theater actor and playwright. He moved to Paris at the end of the 80s. In those same years, he has AIDS and knows he is doomed. A condition that will then orient his creations around the themes of the disappearance, the farewells, and reinforce those he was already dealing with: the return to the family, the difficulty of communication, the power of speech.
So when he wrote his play Just the End of the World in Berlin in 1990, Jean-Luc Lagarce speaks for himself, creating with the character of Louis a fictional double for announce to his family, and to the world, that he is going to die. In the play, Louis is 34 years old, a year older than Jean-Luc Lagarce’s age when he wrote it. On September 30, 1995, the playwright died of AIDS, in Paris, at the age of 38.
In Just the end of the world by Xavier Dolan, Gaspard Ulliel delivers a stunning performance, with a heartbreaking sincerity. In his words, but perhaps above all in his silences, in the looks exchanged with those who understood, in his volcanic relationship with his brother Antoine, who is angry with him for leaving and having lived the life he didn’t have, Gaspard Ulliel finds his greatest role. For which he therefore obtains the César for best actor in 2017. For their part, Vincent Cassel and Nathalie Baye are both nominated for a César for Best Supporting Actor.
A family camera to tell, implicitly, the whole human condition
The spectators, of the film…