93rd Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

SPEECH BY: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller


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A. [FLORIAN ZELLER]:  Hi, Nicky.

Q. Hi.  Hello. 
A. [FLORIAN ZELLER]:  Yes.  We're here.

Q. Sorry.  I just wanted to ‑‑ how are you feeling?  Are you feeling surreal? 
A. [FLORIAN ZELLER]:  Yes, particularly in these circumstances since we are in different countries.  You know, with ‑‑ generally with masks on.  It's unlike any other kind of Oscar ceremony I would imagine it has ever been.  It is strange but great.

Q. All right.  Thank you.  Next question is coming from Black in America. 
A. [FLORIAN ZELLER]:  I am unmuted.

Q. Can you hear me?  Thank you.  What inspired you to make such a beautiful story about aging and dementia and loss? 
A. [FLORIAN ZELLER]:  It's a long story.  Before being in the film, The Father was a play that I worked 10 years ago.  And, at the very beginning, I think that I was trained to go through my personal history, in a way, being that I had been raised by my grandmother, and she was like my mother.  She was someone very dear to me, and she started to suffer from dementia when I was 15. 
So I knew what it was to go through this painful process and to find yourself in a position where you are powerless and impotent.  But I also knew that I'm not the only one, unfortunately, that everyone has a grandmother, or everyone has a father, or everyone has or will have to deal with this kind of dilemma, you know, which is what do you do with the people you love when they are starting to lose their bearings. 
So it was not about telling my own story, but it was about sharing emotions.

Q. The film was absolutely wonderful.  It touched me in such a visceral way.  I just lost my father to COVID, and his father, my grandfather, passed away from dementia.  So it touched me in a very remarkable way.  So thank you so much.  Congratulations tonight.
A. [CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON]:  Thank you very much.

Q. For both of you, what was the most difficult ‑‑ sorry.  Can you hear me? 
A. [FLORIAN ZELLER]:  Yes, now we can.

Q. Yes.  What was the ‑‑ what was the most difficult part of the adaptation process, the most painful, problematic part of it?
A. [FLORIAN ZELLER]:  Nothing was painful.  But, no, we first met talking about this adaptation together with Christopher, and it was clear that what we didn't want to do was to feel the play, you know, and to ‑‑ so the change was to do something cinematic, as cinematic as possible, and what the cinema can do and what only the cinema can do. 
And so we made a decision early on, kept the narrative from the play, which was to tell the story from the inside and to put the audience in a unique position, as if we were going through a labyrinth.  And we had to find a visual way to turn this experience into an even more immersive experience.
And, you know, when you think about adapting a play into a film, the first ideas you have is always to write new scenes outdoors to make it feel more cinematic.  But here, very early on, we made the decision not to do so and to stay in this department so that that space could become like a mental space, and that we could use it in a cinematic way. 
A. [CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON]:  So instead of opening it out, we sort of opened it in. 
A. [CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON]:  And looked at the whole story through one man's consciousness.  And so, the claustrophobia that we were able to create was, you know, helped the mood that we hoped to generate in the audience, I guess.


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