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French Golden Globe Nominee <i>The Chorus</i> Strikes Chord with Filmgoers

  • Penelope Poulou

Up for a Golden globe Award in the category of Best Foreign language Film is the heart warming movie drama The Chorus by French director Christophe Barrattier. The story of Clement Mathieu a mild mannered music teacher who forms a boy choir in the most unlikely of places, a reform school for boys has been an international hit. The boys find refuge and inspiration in music and one of them; Pierre Morrhange will see his life changed forever. Director Christophe Barrattier told VOA's Penelope Poulou that both the movie and its music have been a phenomenal success.

BARRATTIER: "Everybody is singing. The soundtrack has sold over two million CDs. It is a hit and the film has been sold to more than 60 countries. Of course I am happy and amazed! "

POULOU: [Apart from directing the movie] You wrote the story as well. What inspired you to deal with a subject such as this one?

BARRATIER: "The story is rather autobiographical because for some years I lived in a boarding school in the French countryside without my parents. And so, because I was without them I was a bit shy and lonely and depressed. [There] I met a wonderful music teacher who taught me music and singing…. and so, there is of course a lot of me in a lot of my characters. I am in the little kid, Pepinot who is waiting for his father every Saturday. It's me! Because I was really waiting for my father. The character of Pierre Morrhange, [who discovered music and was fascinated by it] is also myself because the music really changed my life. Each Saturday [like Morrhange] I was also waiting for the music lesson. So, [The script is partly the result of] my imagination but, I think eighty percent of it is my story.]"

POULOU: It is very lyrical, very emotional but it is very human and naturally done.[The character of] Clement Matthieu played by Jerard Jugnot is incredibly natural, incredibly heart breaking. I think [your film has] a lot of similarities with Benini's Italian movie Life Is Beautiful that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film few years back.

BARRATTIER: " Billy Elliott's Cinema Paradiso, [the movie] Il Postino, the film Life Is Beautiful, are stories of somebody who helps somebody to do something. In Cinema Paradiso it is a lesson of cinema, in Life is Beautiful it is a lesson of life. And I think, in my movie it is a music lesson but above all, it is a lesson of life."

POULOU: It is a very uplifting movie. Unfortunately there have been those that have criticized your approach as too optimistic. [The question runs:] well can we have a boarding school where all kids are basically good? Can we have a choir with perfect voices?

BARRATTIER:" I'm sure of that. For example, I chose all my children actors from very poor families, [children who have faced social difficulties] I chose them because I wanted it [to be this way.] I think it was important to do it. [Originally] when these kids came on the set they were [rude] not very nice, sometimes a bit tough. Three months later, they were singing, they were acting, they were artists. So, please if somebody thinks [the film is too idealistic] come on my set or [watch] the making of my film and you'll see how the kids were before and how they are now. I invented a family. Now, all these kids who were very [distant] from each other, very tough, some were without their families, placed in boarding schools for tough boys, now they have reintegrated their families. Their parents are very proud of them everything has changed for them."

POULOU: Thank you very much Christophe Barrattier it was a pleasure.

BARRATTIER: Thank you very much to you.

The Chorus is director Christophe Barrattier's first major feature film.

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