To condense the five volumes of the manga “Le Sommet des Dieux” in a single feature film: it was one of the many challenges of the team of the animated film, which returns with us on this extraordinary adventure. On screen and behind the scenes.
After Le Grand Méchant Renard and other tales, which he had co-directed with Benjamin Renner, Patrick Imbert sets out, solo, in the ascent of a monument: Le Sommet des Dieux, manga in five volumes signed by the legend Jirô Taniguchi with Baku Yumemakura in the early 2000s, around the mysteries that surround Everest.
As surprising as it may seem, this is the first animated adaptation of a work by Taniguchi, who died in 2017. And it was not easy, as the director explains to us in the company of producers Jean-Charles Ostorero, Didier Brunner, Damien Brunner, Stephan Roelants and Fabien Renelli.
DashFUN: How did the desire to adapt this manga come about?
Jean-Charles Ostorero (Julianne Films): A great mountain enthusiast since my youth and avid reader of all forms of expedition and ascension narrative, I was very familiar with the history of the conquest of Everest and the three expeditions in which Mallory participated in 1921, 1922 and the one that was fatal to him on June 8, 1924. I therefore knew this mystery of Everest and the existence of the Kodak Vest Pocket [son appareil photo, qui pourrait prouver s’il est arrivé au sommet mais n’a jamais été retrouvé, ndlr].
But, despite having read at least five-six stories or fictions on this epic, I never said to myself when closing one of these books that I would like a fictional film to tell these facts. I had to read the five volumes of “Summit of the Gods” in 2012 so that there is in me this click thanks to which the adventure started. It is therefore to the narrative form of the manga and especially to the drawing of Jirô Taniguchi that I attribute this desire, which very quickly became obsessive.
Was it easy to obtain the rights from its authors?
Jean-Charles Ostorero: It took several months for this idea, then this desire, by knocking on my night’s door again, to become intense enough that I decided to devote several years of my life to it. Everything almost collapsed when I learned that Editions Kana did not have the adaptation rights, which had remained in the hands of authors Jirô Taniguchi and Baku Yumemakura.
Fortunately, the first of the many good stars who hatched this project arose in the East, in the person of Corinne Quentin who headed the French Copyright Office in Tokyo and represented the interests of the authors. She thus avoided the accelerated method of learning Japanese! After a few months of exchanges, letters to the authors and discussions, they agreed to trust me. For which I will be eternally grateful to them.
I think I can say that the fact of having immediately positioned the project as an adaptation in animation weighed in the balance of the choice, since there was a competing project. Jirô Taniguchi, the master of drawing, had never seen his work adapted in this form. I think he was very sensitive to that and very curious to see the result.
The fact of having immediately positioned the project as an adaptation in animation weighed in the balance of the choice of the authors to assign the rights.
Was he able to participate in the project, in one way or another, before his death?
Jean-Charles Ostorero: Alas no. Or not enough. Jirô Taniguchi died on February 11, 2017, and this disappearance was a great trauma for all. For me of course, but also for my co-producer partners who had joined the roped party a few months after the signing of the rights: Didier and Damien Brunner and Stephan Roelants, director Patrick Imbert, but also all the teams in the studios were very affected by this disappearance. And even more, no doubt, because everyone then understood that Jirô Taniguchi would not see the film, nor the slightest moving image.
During the all too rare times that we had been able to meet him, he had really liked the narrative but also artistic directions that had been taken. He liked the research of characters and settings a lot. I think he understood that we all wanted this film to be a tribute to his work, but also a real adaptation, without betrayal. He was a man who was very respectful of others, and of artists in particular. As soon as he had accepted this adaptation, he respected the work of Patrick Imbert and his teams.
At what time of the …