Director and screenwriter Philippe Le Guay was inspired by what happened to his friends.
In The man of the cellar, the director and screenwriter Philippe Le Guay tells how a couple (Jérémie Renier and Bérénice Bejo) decide to sell a cellar in the building where they live. A man with a troubled past (François Cluzet) buys it and settles there without warning. Little by little, his presence will turn the couple’s life upside down… An astonishing film on negationism, a sort of mental thriller with Polanskian accents. But the craziest thing is that The man of the cellar is based on a true story, which happened to close friends of the filmmaker. ” This couple decided to sell their cellar to a man who wanted to store archives. They were not suspicious of anything and gave the key to the cellar at the same time as they cashed the check. What they hadn’t foreseen was that the man would physically settle in the cellar… This banal sale turned into a real nightmare. The buyer turned out to be an outright neo-Nazi, one of the pillars of denial in France. When the couple wanted to cancel the sale, it was too late. Without knowing it, they had sealed the sale since in French law ” as long as there is agreement on the thing and on the price, the sale is concluded ”. They suffered such a trauma that their couple exploded, while they adored each other. They allowed me to tell their story, as long as I did not expose them. A priori, I had no vocation to deal with the theme of negationism, but the situation was so crazy that I could not detach myself from it. », Says Philippe Le Guay. The scenario obviously allows itself to romanticize the affair, but the essential is there.
” In real life, the story has been the subject of two trials. The couple lost the first and after two years ended up winning the second. They finally got rid of the man in the cellar. I don’t think I would have been able to imagine such a story, the situation seems impossible … But the fact that it happened allowed me to take hold of it and go through with it. », Assures the filmmaker to First.
However, the project has long been shelved: “ It took me twelve years to make this film. I immersed myself in history in 2009, I started to collect documentation, to read books on Holocaust denial… And I was a little overwhelmed by the responsibility I had to deal with such a subject, and by the difficulty of giving an account and explaining in two hours the mechanisms employed by this character … Something intimidated me and then I let it rest. And it turns out that two years ago, I wanted to take it up again, because I felt around all of us this conspiratorial discourse. This little music which says: ” I just ask questions ”, but which is a questioning of the official truth … It was exactly this rhetoric there that holds the character of The man of the cellar. I thought it was good to give spectators the means to decipher this language. “
The man of the cellar, with Jérémie Renier, Bérénice Bejo and François Cluzet. Currently in the cinema. Trailer :