Elsa Zilberstein: “When Simone Fell fought the abortion law, they told her she would send the fetuses to crematoriums”

Simon’s cameo He is a major figure in contemporary France. A high-profile lawyer, civil servant and politician who broke gender barriers and is one of six women, compared to 75 men, to be buried in the Parisian Pantheon, the resting place of those who hold the country’s highest honors. Today’s headscarf is mostly remembered for sake After she was able to decriminalize abortion in her country in 1975, when she was Minister of Health. But the journey through his life that follows Biography of Simone, Woman of the Century, collects many experiences and battles. The Hell who lived in different Nazi concentration camps That restless young woman, brought up in a Jewish, bourgeois and republican family decimated by the Holocaust, forever marked her life. Although, perhaps, it was that terrible episode that turned her into a tireless fighter for justice She fought not only for women’s rightsbut also for those in prison, for the victims of AIDS or for the future of Europe, a continent that he tried to lead on the right track as First woman elected President of the European Parliament.

Elsa ZilbersteinA well-known and award-winning actress in France without much resonance in Spain, she is responsible for giving life to the mature cameo in the film (Rebecca Marder deals with her younger years). She has also been a promoter for a project run by The Specialist Oliver paintresponsible for others Biographical film How Monaco blessing also Life in pinkAbout singer Edith Piaf. The film, which runs at nearly two and a half hours, falls at times into emotion and public places, but is effective as a portrait of a one-off woman and a France that has evolved over little more than half a century. During the interview in Madrid, Zylberstein is unrecognizable without the characterization forced upon her by her character, but she speaks enthusiastically about the success of Creature, the highest-grossing film in France in recent months.

s. The initiative to make the film is yours. You know Simon Vail personally.

R was found. Yes, I met her. I gave him an award in Paris, at the Scopus gala organized by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I was touched, and by meeting her I began to understand better who she was. We saw each other several times after that. And I said to myself: We have to make a movie about her, her life is a unique journey. This resilient woman, with tremendous courage, who has done so much for others. Behind his shield, from that coldness that he gave off, was an enormous humanity. But I was late, of course, because while she was alive it was hard to make the movie, out of respect for the family. When he died while walking out of his funeral home, it was clear to me: I do. So I looked for producers, and when they asked me who I thought of as a director, I said there was only one person who could do that, and that was Olivier Dahan, who did the Piaf biopic. I called him that same night, the next day I went to see him and three hours later he said yes indeed.

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Q: The film shows several interviews with Hijab, in particular an interview that took place at his home in which a large part of his personality and history is revealed. In addition to his encounters, I understand that this should have been the main source for setting up the character.

R. I spent an entire year working on the character. I gave up everything for this project. I gained nine kilos and seeing it all in there, I devoured it nonstop. It was a complete obsession. I watched everything he did, how he got out of the cars, his every move. That interview is a documentary by Jean-Emile Jennison, and we have reproduced it exactly. She has just been appointed a minister and explains who she is: this is my life, I have been deported, I have lost my sister and mldr; All of it was more than inspiration, it was my daily food.

Q: Throughout the film we see Simone Weil with an increasingly strong temper, visibly hardened by tragedy, but also by perpetual conflict with the men. How was that character formed?

A: When the hijab is young, it is a happy girl, but it is really personal. In his letters, it appears in his books. She fights. Then she gets hardened by having to survive, like anyone who’s been through a concentration camp. For a year I talked with Paul Shaffer, who was his best friend at Brobeck. [un subcampo de Auschwitz]With Marceline Leuridan and Gent Kolinka [también compañeras de experiencia en la deportación y los campos] The amazing thing is that these people are full of life force. They are all obsessed with the idea of ​​transmission, and what happened should not be forgotten. Of course, in Simon there is anger, there is anger. At one point in the fireplace interview, she says, “Maybe I survived because I was the hardest. You learn to harden yourself, because you live in Hell and you know the brutal in your own flesh. And you have to protect yourself. But in the movie we didn’t want to just reflect that tough, brutal view.” We wanted the veil that blurs the arc. Know who was behind the public persona. What was his guilt, his weaknesses, his humanity.

Elsa Zilberstein, during her promotional visit to Madrid. / waive it

Q: You play Simone Veil from 38 to 87. The characterization work is impressive.

R. If it was just makeup, it wouldn’t be a thing. Anyone can do makeup. Well, it was four hours of work for the 38-year-old and seven hours for the 87-year-old. But the hardest thing was finding the intimacy, there was that pain, that anger, that strength in my gaze. Also, Olivier and I agreed on something: we wanted to do it not “French style”, but “American style”, like Gary Oldman. How will it work on intimacy, on the inside, if my face is the same as always, and so recognizable? That is why I agreed that I had to change myself physically.

Q: This type of biopic has a dimension that goes beyond cinematography, and is almost an educational intent. Was it clear that you wanted it to be like this?

R. It was a bit uninformed, because at first I didn’t think about it. That was such a great story, it had to be made into a movie. Now it’s not a time period movie anymore, because there are totally current battles in it. Totalitarianism, Europe, insult. Everything I fought against there again. That’s why the wonderful and wonderful thing – we sold 2 million tickets in France – is that a young generation is taking over the film, girls of 13, 14, 15 years old. And the veil has become a model for the younger generation. For me, cinema is political, even when you make a comedy. You have to commit. The movie is a weapon in the literal sense of the word. Reading a book, watching a documentary… It’s not something everyone can afford. But the movie yes, maybe because it’s something more fun.

Father Simon Veil is one of the greatest figures in modern France. But does France know Simone Vail well?

R. They know the abortion law we owe Simon Fell. But they don’t know all of their matches. For example, no one remembers what he did to AIDS patients, or the conditions in prisons. Also, it seems to me useful to say things again, to insist. Because history has a very short memory. What is happening in Ukraine for example? The oppression is massive in many places. Male dominance persists, does not evolve, and does not change anything.

P. Simone Veil managed to decriminalize abortion in France, but in the movie we see how hard he struggled to make it happen. Insults and contempt for men. That France that came from 1968 and that from Spain that was considered open and progressive, was still a very strong France.

R. Let’s not forget that it was France Giscard [d’Estaing, el presidente de centro-derecha que la nombró]. Chirac [entonces, su primer ministro] He told her: “This abortion is a women’s story. Let them go away. Best woman for the Minister of Health ”. In 1974, there were only nine women in Parliament for 481 men. And they insult her. As a woman and a Jew. They dare call her a Nazi. To tell him he sends Fetuses to crematoriums. They send him anti-Semitic messages. She wrote her famous speech at the Assembly almost single-handedly, and her courage was astounding. She never said, ‘A woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her own body.’ No, what she was saying was that abortion has always been and will become a drama , but at that time it was a matter of public health, because women would continue to put their bodies at risk by having abortions.

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Q: Was Simone Fell a feminist in the current sense? In France, the movement was completely clouded a few years ago when a group of actresses and intellectuals spoke out against #metoo.

R. I can’t speak for her. But her feminism is a feminist like Elizabeth Badinter’s. She’s not a man-hating feminist, she’s an equality feminist. Men and women should look at each other on the same level and respect each other. That said, it seems to me very good for women to speak out, that was a much needed movement. As to whether Weil is a feminist, they ask her in Israel, and she first says no, and then says yes. I would say she was not a militant, but a feminist.

When people like her return from the fields, they feel ashamed. What they experienced was so shameful that you cannot count it. Many fell silent. And they started talking after 20 years.

Q: The film deals with another thorny issue that affects you personally: the question of the Jews in France. There is a moment when his character says, “We survived until he shuts up.” She didn’t seem too happy about it.

R. Veil has great faith in man. For example, you don’t like the Marcel Ophüls movie Melancholy and dread, in which the French appear as collaborators. She has always admired resistance. But when people like her return from the fields, they are ashamed. What they experienced was so shameful that you couldn’t tell what happened. Many fell silent. And they started talking after 20 years. Today, France continues to confront its history. That’s why I wanted to make this movie. What if France is anti-Semitic? I wouldn’t dare say that. There are anti-Semites, of course. But France is an amazing country.

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Q: Your father’s family is Jewish. Did they go through something similar to what the hijab went through?

A: Yes, my paternal grandparents were Jewish, they were furriers, and they hid in Lyon. As a result, my father was a child in hiding, a child who had not been around for three or four years, because he had not been able to go out into the street. My great-grandfathers, who lived in Lithuania, also died on Treblinka, and he is on another field.

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