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The Outreau, Saint Omer affair: why does justice on the screens fascinate you so much?


Mirrors of our society, court cases appeal to universal emotions. Cathartic and realistic, they inspire films, series, programs and fascinate an increasingly fond public. Decryption

From the cult

Twelve Angry Men,

by Sidney Lumet, to

La Vérité,

by Clouzot, to the cinema, from

New York, judicial police

to the inclusive


side of the series, from the documentary feature film

Neither judge nor submitted

to the docu-series


, the popularity of court cases on our screens has never waned.

And it is confirmed: France 2 has just broadcast a docu-fiction in four episodes on the legal fiasco of the Outreau affair and from March 8 two films in theaters are tackling the exercise,

My crime,

of François Ozon, and

You Haven't Seen Anything Either

, by Béatrice Pollet, with Géraldine Nakache as a criminal lawyer.

On video,

You haven't seen anything

by Béatrice Pollet either, with Géraldine Nakache, the trailer

But why are they so fascinating?

Is it related to a morbid curiosity?

Looking forward to playing the Mustard colonels of a Cluedo in CinemaScope?

Is it our attraction to the dark side of the human soul?

"What interests above all are criminal cases and violent crimes, no doubt because they crystallize our frustrations, our fantasies, our fears...", explains Clarisse Serre, criminal lawyer at the Seine-Saint-Denis bar. and consultant for the Engrenages series.

“We identify with the victim, we say to ourselves that this kid accused of murder could be our son, we realize that, sometimes, it only takes a little thing for everything to change… By ricochet, the lawyer then becomes the 'ultimate hope for everyone's rights to be recognised, the Zorro of justice, or conversely the

object of criticism when one is persuaded to see things more clearly than him.

Either way, these cases make us active spectators.”

The spectator leads the investigation

Who killed Grégory Villemin?

Are the parents there for something?

Did Judge Lambert scuttle the instruction?

Over the images of the Netflix documentary miniseries


on the famous disappeared from Vologne, the viewer investigates this unsolved case that haunts our collective memories.

“A lot of cases ask more questions than they answer.

We are in search of truth, but it is very rare that a judgment is based on infallible evidence.

It is often a story of interpretation and intimate conviction that leaves the field open to the imagination of the spectator, ”analyzes Jean-Baptiste Thierry, lecturer in criminal law at the Faculty of Law of Nancy.

"What piques our curiosity the most is what is outside the scope, what we don't understand, what escapes us from human nature," adds psychiatrist Daniel Zagury.

Courtrooms are incomparable sociological material and in fact an inexhaustible source of fiction.




, Alice Diop is interested in a trial for infanticide based on the case of Fabienne Kakou, a doctoral student who drowned her baby by abandoning it on a beach at rising tide.

"There is a double movement of attraction-repulsion for these cases", analyzes Doctor Zagury, expert on the trial of the murderer in 2016. "We appropriate the story, because it is anchored in our known reality of parent, child, minority… But this is also accompanied by a feeling of rejection, because it also refers to the deepest part of the construction of our identity with a form of violence that we prefer to deny.

Basically, it concretizes the unthinkable, what has been repressed.

Catalysts of the human psyche, trials not only appeal to universal emotions,



“Violence, the face of delinquency, the typology of crimes always tell something of an era.

Courtrooms are incomparable sociological material and in fact an inexhaustible source of fiction.

A dramatic tension

Beyond the heavy dramatic stakes, it is also the formal theatricality of the court, its decor, its costumes, its solemnity, its codes and its language that fascinate filmmakers and spectators.


The Girl with the Bracelet

, Stéphane Demoustier filmed the trial of a high school student accused of murdering her best friend.

“A trial is a staging: everyone plays the role assigned to them.

It is also a dramaturgy with marked narrative arcs – testimonies or pleadings, for example – and a denouement, the verdict.

There is a parallel with the cinema or the series, which also call upon a narration, characters, a dramatic tension.

On the other hand, the temporality of fiction cannot be that of the trial to avoid boredom and create suspense.

“I nevertheless endeavored to leave room for silence and to summon the off-screen through the stories of each other to transcribe the time of the trial”, recalls Stéphane Demoustier.

“In court, each party has time to speak, to be heard.

It is a salutary moment, one that escapes the daily frenzy of our real and digital lives.

Perhaps this is also what the spectators are looking for: a suspended moment that invites reflection and listening.

"The orality of the debates, the speaking times distributed have this particularity that they give space to contradiction and analysis, unlike the media and digital debate where everything is indignation", supports Anne Landois.

Indeed, there is no need for the spectacular to capture attention: the legal framework can be sufficient on its own.

Restore confidence in justice

Born from this observation, the format of

 Justice in France,

on France 3, thus deciphers real filmed trials, commented on set.

Since the media hype of the Dominici affair in 1954, and with the exception of a few historic trials (Papon, Barbie, Touvier…), cameras were prohibited in the courts.

In April 2022, Éric Dupond-Moretti, Minister of Justice, authorized them again.

"The approach is educational, complementary to that of fiction", confirms Dominique Verdeilhan, legal columnist and presenter of the show.

“The idea is to get out of show justice and restore confidence in the institution.

It is not a question of redoing the trial, of judging the work of magistrates and lawyers, but of deciphering, with the help of experts, the decisions and the language.

It is an immersion in the judicial machine with

Beyond the criminal cases and the assizes which will also be dealt with, the program focuses on more daily justice through family, civil and over-indebtedness cases... An opening that can also be found in American fiction: s he once made

Perry Mason

fans happy



a thriller asking the single question of “who committed the crime?”, is no longer enough to catch the eye.

As the spectator's education progresses, the cases tackled are more and more varied: the crime of blood always pleases, but coexists with environmental affairs (



Dark Waters

...) or the rights of the demonstrators (

The Seven of Chicago ,

by Aaron Sorkin).

Read alsoJacqueline Laffont and Olivia Ronen, lawyers for Nicolas Sarkozy and Salah Abdeslam: major trial and profession of passion

A growing trend in the United States, where literature, films and trial series are a historical genre where reference works jostle, from Truman Capote (

In Cold Blood

) to Otto Preminger (

Autopsy of a Crime

) or Oliver Stone (


), by the way, on the series side, by

Ally McBeal


The Good Wife


New York Police Judicial



or the highly anticipated


, adaptation of a BBC format in which each episode tells in flashback the story of an accused awaiting his verdict.

“We all know the American declaration known as Miranda – “You have the right to remain silent…” – and the reversals of jurisprudence of the Supreme Court.

In France, we are less familiar with the rules of our police custody or the workings of the Council of State, ”explains Jean-Baptiste Thierry.

American law regularly invites itself into French fictions, which, for a small effect of sleeve or by ignorance, draw warrants of search, however non-existent in France.

It is also not uncommon for the "president" of the French courts to become "your honor", an entirely American designation.

"If the American procedure is so popular, it is also because

it can be more “spectacular”: you can arrive with last-minute evidence at trial, which is impossible in France.

With us, the elements in the hands of the prosecution must also be in the possession of the defense when the hearing opens", analyzes Anne Landois, who, in order to avoid errors in her series


, the next Canal+ creation, once again called on the expertise of Clarisse Serre.

“Working with lawyers, I noticed that they had the same way of thinking and analyzing as screenwriters: they explore possibilities, tell a story.

We share the same DNA.

By attending the courts, I also understood that the French procedure was a real source of dramaturgy.

Everything that will be said and decided at the hearing, during the investigation or the interrogations, has an impact on the individuals: there are stakes of life or death, deprivation of liberty…”

Five major French affairs in the cinema

In images, in pictures

See the slideshow05 photos

See the slideshow05 photos

Not a question of morality, but of law

As the public becomes more familiar with French law, screenwriters and directors also document themselves more.

According to Jean-Baptiste Thierry, "they go beyond the obvious, transform a priori dry legal notions into dramatic issues, and in doing so, instill in the public this major idea: justice is not a question of morality, but of right".

If fiction is a tool for judicial comprehension, ellipses and shortcuts remain inevitable to avoid boredom.

Despite clear progress, certain stereotypes persist in the characterization of the characters in particular.

Starting with the figure of the lawyer, according to Clarisse Serre. “I fought for her to wear pants in


but I was unsuccessful.

For a matter of practice, however, we cannot run from police custody to court in a skirt and a Louboutin.”

Another pitfall of the genre: the systematization of the great courts, all of waxed wood.


, in the spring on Canal+, will voluntarily take the opposite view by basing its stories in Bobigny.

"The solemnity of courts like that of Paris sometimes gives an outdated aspect to justice and the handling of cases", explains showrunner Anne Landois.

“In Bobigny, we are in a brick and metal building, with many young magistrates, often in the first positions.

It gives another color to justice.

There is a form of freedom of speech, of familiarity, of closeness, which invites another audience to identify.

What to ensure good days for a genre that is more and more popular in France.

On video,

Saint Omer

by Alice Diopp, excerpt

Source: lefigaro

All business articles on 2023-01-30

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