“I used animals to remind us of our humanity”- Laurent Lariviere

By Kinjal Sethia

“My film is named ‘I Am A Soldier’ but it is not about war,” the French director Laurent Larivière told The Peacock, “instead it is about shame and recognition. Sandrine is a young woman who returns home after failing to make a life in Paris. She begins working at her uncle’s dog kennel, and when she realises the existence of dog trafficking, which is a very important problem in Europe, she faces an ethical dilemma as she is finally beginning to earn money and status, but at what cost. So I used the allegory of dogs to talk about contemporary violence.”

Larivière explains, “I did not want to make a film directly talking about violence, so I made this film to metaphorically capture the conflicts in human society through animal trafficking. There are too many films made on violence, and we have become desensitised to them. I used animals to remind us of our humanity, what it means to be human. Using animals has provided me an objective distance to talk about violence. I wanted to start with the particular, and extend it to the universal.”

About his lead character in ‘I Am A Soldier’, Larivière says, “even though women in France have access to all the facilities like education, they are still not treated equally. It is still a male dominated society. They are paid less than men for the same work. All top positions are filled by men. Even in cinema, be it French or Hollywood, female actors are almost always in supporting roles. They only deal with problems of feminity. That is why I especially chose to make a film which does not talk about love or marriage, which are always associated with female roles. Sandrine is a free woman who fights for recognition in society, like any man. I sometimes receive a comment that this role could have been played by a male, and I take that as a complement.”

The film depicts an internal conflict for recognition and integrity. Larivière says, “Sandrine is feeling stifled inside. She has become anesthised to outside feelings. She is so ashamed of herself she becomes numb to outside world. She just listens to her mother. Even when she begins work at her uncle’s kennel, she does not react to the unethical side of the business. Her uncle gives her a place in society; she takes it all because it repairs something inside her. Only later, does she realise the moral dilemma. Then I ask the question as to how far can we go to be a part of this social world, and then she stops as she does not agree with the means to her end.”

Larivière says, “I made this film because I feel the cruelty of human conditions and relationships all around me. I am afraid for what the world is going through. But I feel that the only reaction we can give is to be stronger and fight against it. We should not instil fear in us, as terrorists [he was specifically referring to the attacks on Paris earlier this month] want. We should continue with our way of life, meet friends, and be happy.”

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