The cross : Why did you decide to make a film on the Viguier affair?
Antoine Raimbault : It turns out that I attended the two trials of Jacques Viguier and that I discovered there the functioning of our justice which I knew in fact very badly. Everything I knew about justice came from American films. On the benches of these assize courts, I wanted to tell about all the complexity of this affair which fascinated public opinion, the importance of doubt, the dramaturgy of the hearings.
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It is the role of cinema to question reality, in an approach where fiction can be mixed with a more documentary approach. Even if, as a director, you have to keep total artistic freedom, it seems impossible to me to tell a real story without setting certain ethical and moral principles. For example, before I started, I met Jacques Viguier and his children for a long time. And if they had opposed the film, I wouldn’t have.
The main character of the film, who fights to demonstrate the innocence of Jacques Viguier, is fictional. But for the rest, you have decided to stick as closely as possible to the judicial file. Why ?
AR : I think there can be no cinema without fiction. I invented this character in particular to convey, through him, all the passion, and even the madness, which can take hold of public opinion in the face of an unresolved news item. But what I wanted to do was above all a film of the trial. And it seemed absolutely necessary to me to be able to say: everything that is told about the case is true from a legal point of view. To the word, for everything concerning the remarks made at the hearing.
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So I did a lot of documentation work by asking journalists present at the trials to give me their notes. I also relied on the 250 hours of listening contained in the file, while setting myself a rule: only to state in the film extracts of listening which have already been revealed publicly, during the trials or in the press.
Is it this same concern for authenticity that led you to keep the real names of the protagonists of the affair?
AR : Yes. When you adapt a real case, from a legal standpoint, it doesn’t make much difference to change the names of the main people involved. vs
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Because even if we take aliases, we know that the public will easily recognize so-and-so. And since I wanted to stick as closely as possible to judicial truth, it seemed more coherent. I just modified those of some witnesses that were a bit ancillary because they had never been quoted in the media.
The film shows in an unflattering light an important character of the file, this man who, at the time of the disappearance of Suzanne Viguier, had an affair with her. Believing that your film infringes on his privacy, he went to court to ask, in vain, for his ban … Can you understand his dismay?
AR : I can understand it but there was no intention to harm him. Everything that is shown about him is in accordance with reality and what was said during the trial. In the end, the court, which rejected his request, considered that the main themes of the film, in particular the importance of doubt in a criminal trial and the way in which a judicial investigation can “produce” a culprit, fall under “Obviously a subject of general interest in a democratic society”.