A wood in the early morning. A clearing in the humid sky of the Vosges. And a call like a war cry. "Come on girls, you're treading!" »Launches Alexandre Laurent behind his camera. The director at the maneuver of "Combattantes", the next historical saga of TF 1 set at the heart of the First World War, knows how to motivate his troops. And it works. With a few details… “The clothes must be dirtier. You have to add powder, ”he asks the head costume designer, while an assistant activates a chainsaw to clear the overgrown terrain. "We have a little girl with us and it's damn steep… Shouldn't break her", smiles Audrey Fleurot,mane up to the middle of the back, the red color of which is highlighted by the blue of the long worker's shirt that she wears over jodhpur pants and gaiters.
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And here is the one who camps Marguerite, a mysterious prostitute, descending among the trees with the little girl and Sofia Essaïdi, alias Caroline, promoted to the head of a company of manufacture of cars in the absence of her husband gone on the forehead.
The trio are supposed to flee from German soldiers.
Anguish on their faces.
"What do you mean, are you kidding?"
»Remarks, while viewing the take, Audrey Fleurot facing Stessy Belotti, a young Vosgienne chosen to play the daughter of Sofia Essaïdi.
"In fact, you were afraid because the Germans are there," explains the director in a soft voice.
We go back ... With rage.
»And to diffuse on his speaker suspended from a branch an anguishing music to set the tone.
Four crossed destinies of women
That Thursday, the team planted its cameras in the green space that surrounds the former royal manufacture of Bains-les-Bains, the oldest industrial site in Lorraine. Here remain a mansion, a chapel, a stable, industrial buildings (where tin was made), all redecorated in the fashion of 1914 for fiction. At the windows of the former workers' lodgings transformed into lodges, soldier's trousers, socks, and shirts of yesteryear flutter in the wind. Hutches with real rabbits, aged wicker pots and baskets hide the walls near the gate bearing the image of the “Dewitt Factory”. In front of the assembly workshop, faded oil cans compete with damaged tires, an antique truck with the name of a brewery and transformed into an ambulance awaits departure. " A jewel :our decoration manager had seven trucks made from scratch… and they are rolling, ”applauds Iris Bucher, the producer who was already behind the“ Bazar de la charité ”in 2019.
The former royal manufactory of Bains-les-Bains, which hosted the shooting that day, was completely redecorated in a 1914 style for the needs of fiction.
This time, the eight episodes of “The Fighters” will tell the crossed destinies of four women caught up in the war in a village in the Vosges near the German zone.
the fire in this Parisian place in 1897 had changed lives that we then followed in a normal world.
There, the existence of our heroines is turned upside down for four years, like all of France, the world.
We attack a monument and we do not want to be irreverent, specifies the producer who has taken the advice of historians.
We do everything to be fair, even if we take some liberties with historical reality because it is not a documentary.
"The camera will be very moving", promises the director
On screen, the action will begin in September 1914, two weeks before the trenches, when the fighting rages in the forest and in the mountains in the North-East to stop the “race to the sea”, by preventing the enemy. to advance towards the ports of the Channel. “At least half of the series will be shot outdoors, in the Vosges and the Paris region, as well as in Hauts-de-France,” explains Alexandre Laurent. It's more open, we have many more people on the screen and battle scenes with gas attacks, bayonets. »His inspirations? “The Western or
Saving Private Ryan
The Bazaar of Charity
was bright, we were often in the aristocracy.
There, I want a beautiful image but not necessarily sparkling.
The camera will be very moving, ”adds the director.
Not enough to destabilize Sofia Essaïdi who exchanges by rereading her text before going on to a scene where gendarmes come on horseback to make an arrest.
"I had never shot historical fiction: it was a dream because there is a magical, playful side", rejoices the actress in the skin of the avant-garde Caroline, long skirt and loose hair, a small departure from reality which wanted these ladies not to be able to "go out in hair" and to wear a hat.
“This woman takes responsibility for her choices, the life she wanted to have.
Sandrine Bonnaire (right) opens her first role as a grandmother here in front of a daughter-in-law (Sofia Essaïdi) whom she is wary of.
At her side, Sandrine Bonnaire, black dress, chignon and austere face of the stepmother, also relishes this "first role of grandmother". "It hurts morale," she laughs. But I am not afraid of the passage of time. And my sister was a grandmother at 40! There, my character does not like his daughter-in-law too much, like many possessive mothers-in-law! She has her principles and entrusting the factory to Caroline worries her. Deep down, she's not that bad. We often imagine war on the male side. It's also nice to talk about what the women have done. "
A decisive decision also for Audrey Fleurot. “I like the great historical frescoes as a television viewer and I am happy that TF 1 is returning to this genre, affirms the one who has just produced a box with the series“ HPI ”on the front page. We saw the men in the trenches but not really the nurses, the workers in the factories who, after the war, will no longer want to come home. It is an important sociological turning point. Marguerite is a prostitute haunted by an element of her past: the war will trigger in her the need to find someone. An independent character, strong with an Achilles heel. You have to see her protest, struggle over a sequence. Off target, she laughs watching the (fake) gendarmes scramble with an antique pair of handcuffs."Shouldn't the guys have been trained in the material?" It takes six hours to put them on! "