Film Scouts Interviews

"La Classe de neige" (The Class Trip) Press Conference
at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival

by Henri Béhar
Claude Miller’s new film deals with child abuse. Nicolas (Clément van den Berg) goes on a class trip to a ski resort. A fragile, troubled young boy overly smothered by his father, he remains a bit distant from the rest of his class, his mind constantly assailed by painful memories mixed with terrifying fantasies – or are they ? He makes a friend of one of his classmates, Hodkann (Lokman Nalcakan), an outspoken lad, whom he draws into his mental trip by telling him more and more frightening stories. In the end, reality proves to be even more horryfying.
At the press conference, the two child actors display incredible poise. Sitting next to producer Annie Miller and Emmanuel Carrère, on whose novel « The Class Trip » is based, they go straight to the point, no bullshit, watched with a mixture of tremendous affection and almost enthomological sense of observation by director Claude Miller who, like François Truffaut whose assistant he once was, has made several films on the various stages of childhood and adolescence.

QUESTION (to Clement van der Berg): Were you upset by your role?

CLEMENT VAN DEN BERG: No, not at all.

QUESTION: Did you identify with the child?

CLEMENT VAN DEN BERG: Am I like him? No. I read the character in the script, and I had to adapt to the part.

QUESTION: Does this film stem from direct personal experience?

CLAUDE MILLER: No, it is indirect. But it strikes a whole area of childhood fears and phobias. I had an ordinary childhood. I had fears. I was shy and withdrawn. When you’re a child, you have fun and games plus phobias.

EMMANUEL CARRERE: My answer is the same as Claude Miller’s. I have memories of fears and phobia which is the substance of the film. It was not taken from newspaper items. Not inspired by events.

QUESTION: My country, Belgium, has been traumatized by affairs of child killings and pedophilia. Did whatever information that was available become part of the script and was the film hard to produce?

CLAUDE MILLER: The novel was written in 1995. When I read, there was no talk of such affairs yet. After I decided to make the film, the scandal developed. The media coverage of it did not prevent me from making the film. I was afraid I might be perceived as opportunistic. But making the film was more important than my fears. We did have difficulty finding money for this film because of the topic. Opportunities counterbalanced reluctance by decision makers.

ANNIE MILLER: I wanted to make this film despite what was happening. Financiers were not interested because of the outcome of the movie. People read scripts in different ways. People who read it with imagination were the ones who ended up being the co-producers, producers and crew. What was required was talent and faith. This is not a film about problems in countries, but about fears in childhood. I had faith in Claude's talents to make this movie. But it was a struggle to produce.

CLAUDE MILLER: It was not the pedophilia aspect that interested me. It's how people react to adult sexuality.

QUESTION: Is this a film for children ?

LOKMAN NALCAKAN: I don't know.

CLAUDE MILLER: They haven't seen it yet.

CLEMENT VAN DEN BERG: It will be good if kids could see it because it will open their eyes to what happens. It's good to see what happens.

QUESTION: How old are you?


QUESTION: Did you read the novel before the script?

CLEMENT VAN DEN BERG: I haven't read the novel until the script. I liked the book.

EMMANUEL CARRERE: I am often asked the same question. Parents come up to me with their children for me to sign the book. It's a short book so it has the appearance of a children's book. I say, "No, no. Wait until your kids are older." My son has not read the book. He can confirm what you said.

QUESTION (To Claude Miller): What's the best way to function as director?

CLAUDE MILLER: Right now - and don't take this the wrong way -- 20% of me wishes I wasn't behind this table : I am not used to such forums. 80% of me is thinking what every other filmmaker thinks : I hope you like the film I I made.

QUESTION (to Lokman Nalcakan and Clement van den Berg): How was Claude as a director?

CLEMENT VAN DEN BERG: I learned the script. On the set, I did as I felt. If it was good, fine. If it wasn't, Claude Miller gave me advice. We had to repeat things a lot. So we had to shoot a lot.

LOKMAN NALCAKAN: Claude Miller was a like a father to me. He never shouted. He was marvelous.

QUESTION (to the child actors) : What was the most difficult scene filmed where Claude Miller's help was needed?

LOKMAN NALCALM: This should be the scene of the class essay.

CLEMENT VAN DEN BERG: When I had to tell the story of Andersen’s mermaid. I had three long monologues. We had to shoot it over again and again.

QUESTION: What's the real meaning behind the mermaid story?

EMMANUEL CARRERE: It tells a story that is kind of key to the fears. You have to make sacrifices to become human. A person with two legs. It's a metaphor of passage.

QUESTION (to Claude Miller): The nightmare scene is surrealistic, almost gory. Why?

CLAUDE MILLER: Kids love to see bodies cut and they laugh at the grotesque nature of it, as well they should. It's part of the imagination. Kids don't dream of paradise.

QUESTION (to Claude Miller): What was the hardest scene to film?

CLAUDE MILLER: As far as Clément van den Berg was concerned, at the beginning of the film there was a scene where his dad has a depression. He goes into his room and breaks down. Clément has no dialogue, but he had to make us feel his anguish about his dad's health. As for Lokman Nalcalm, none as he pointed out. He had some problems learning words and memorize lines.

QUESTION: It's odd that the little brother is punished when the little sister does something wrong. Didn’t François Truffaut, whose assistant Mr. Miller once was, say something about that ? That is was meant to convey that life is unfair ?

CLAUDE MILLER: I don't know. It's Emmanuel Carrère's novel.

EMMANUEL CARRERE: In Truffaut's correspondence, he said that he had done that with his daughters. If one was bad, he would punish the other. He would do that and tell them that life was unfair. It shocked me.

QUESTION: This is a film about the phobias of a child. Must one show them ? If so, what should be shown, what shouldn’t be shown ?

CLAUDE MILLER: Any filmmaker asks himself that question. Otherwise, he is not a filmmaker. How far can one go? What is excessive? Do you turn to obscurity? The answer is yes, you got to do it. Sometimes, transgression is necessary.

QUESTION: You've worked with young actors before. Will you work with them again? Was it difficult? Why have you chosen to deal with the problems?

CLAUDE MILLER: Honestly, I don't like to work with children. I like to tell stories about children, so I have to work with them. It's easier to work with adults. There is a form of diplomacy regarding the seduction of it. It doesn't work with kids. If your feelings aren't genuine, you don't get along with them. There is a struggle to be accepted.

With regard to the troubled themes, it is true. My own childhood was murky. Truffaut's childhood was different. Truffaut had a very difficult childhood. He was pre-determined to do cinema. My own problems were self-created. But after working for 10 years with Truffaut, it is impossible to not be influenced by him.

QUESTION (to Clément van den Berg) : In the film, you ask your teacher about a dream of an ideal family. "Will the dreams come true," you ask. Can they for real? Have you made wishes?

CLEMENT VAN DEN BERG: I didn't make wishes much. My character did in the film because it was important. There were lots of problems and he wanted his dreams to come true.

QUESTION: In his unconscious quest for the ideal family, Clément’s character sees a beautiful young woman in aa gas station changing her baby’s nappies. And soon the wish bracelet he puts on earlier in the film will disintegrate, meaning his wish comes true, sort of. Was that in the novel?

CLAUDE MILLER: Yes, it ws. Not the part about the nappies, though. As for Clement’s wish, it changes throughout the film. With the bracelet, he can have his wishes repressed. He wants the death of his dad. It's an unformulated wish. At the end, it was as if his dad was dead. Something has happened. In the novel, it was that feminine fantasy at the petrol station. There was a headline with the arrest of a murderer.

EMMANUEL CARRERE: The young woman cannot understand that Clement is in disarray. It's a fairytale he may invent to save himself. It's his last chance. He starts dreaming. He calls her to save him and take him away. He is daydreaming, it's all in his mind. But she went away and without suspecting that this child had extraordinary distress and she wasn't in on it.

CLAUDE MILLER: I'd like to add that the thread of the story is difficult. Clément’s character knows what his dad is capable of. He is just unable to express it. In the book, the kid unconsciously has his dad denounced. He calls the cops on his father. He is finished with him. A version of that is in the film : he tells the character played by Lokman, and it’s Lokman who calls the cops.

QUESTION (to Claude Miller): You are doing a Chekov adapation next?

CLAUDE MILLER: Yes. I have not begun it yet. I am adapting "The Seagull" into a film. It's a good subject. In "The Seagull", Nina has social difficults. It's another medium with social difficulties. It will be a free adaptation.

Back to the 1998 Cannes Film Festival Interviews

Back to Interviews

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.