Did you know ? Arsène Lupin, the hero imagined by Maurice Leblanc, appears in the novel which served as the basis for the series “The island of thirty coffins” broadcast on France 2. But the gentleman burglar has been erased from television adaptations.
After three weeks of broadcasting, The island of 30 coffins, the new thriller series from France 2 led by Virginie Ledoyen, Charles Berling, Stanley Weber, and Jérémy Gillet (Mytho), ended last Monday with a good record for the channel since the six episodes brought together an average of 3.38 million viewers, i.e. 16.7% of the public.
For those who missed it on France 2 or in replay, this new adaptation of the eponymous novel by Maurice Leblanc, already brought to the screen in 1979 with Claude Jade in the main role, is still available on Salto. A good opportunity to catch up with her and come back to a notable difference between the series and the novel which serves as her inspiration.
Because if the plot is relatively faithful to that of the book published in 1919, the series produced by Frédéric Mermoud obviously takes some liberties with the source material, as confided by producer Stéphane Moatti during a press conference organized by France 2.
“The 1979 series marked an entire generation. A lot of adaptation work was done by Elsa Marpeau and Florent Meyer, the screenwriters, to keep some of Maurice Leblanc’s motifs while offering their version which fits, for us, in what is called the kind of disturbing strangeness. That is to say beings and things that are familiar to us and which become very disturbing”.
Arsène Lupine arrives “deus ex machina” in the novel
The Island of Thirty Coffins written by Leblanc begins in 1917, when the heroine, Véronique d’Hergemont, returns to the island of Sarek in search of her father and son, declared dead fifteen years earlier. And, against all odds, Arsène Lupin, the gentleman burglar imagined by Maurice Leblanc, arrives in the second half of the story to help Véronique solve the investigation.
Already appeared at that time in several books by the author, such as The Hollow Needle and 813Arsène Lupin, an expert in disguise who does not hesitate to take on multiple identities to commit crimes and solve criminal enigmas, thus experiences a unique literary escapade in Brittany under the pseudonym of Luis Perenna, a druid who will put off state of harm Vorski, and whose name is none other than an anagram of Arsène Lupin.
“As often also in his adventures, Lupine only appears late in the narration: here, around halfway through the book”, explained Thierry Bréhier in an article from France info published in 2017 and dedicated to the novel The Island of Thirty Coffins. “Leblanc unfolds so far a terrifying story, where the worst keeps getting worse, the bad guys get more and more bad, and the good guys lose more and more ground”.
“As if to ward off bad luck, Leblanc who was nevertheless sensitive to the very spiritualist context of his time, makes fun of the Breton supreme high priest: Arsène Lupine in person, in his umpteenth disguise, will metamorphose into a druid”continues Thierry Bréhier. “While terrifying and reducing his enemies with his ironic words and his white robe, he makes fun of all superstition and all fear, used by these high priests of all stripes to assert their power over people who are too credulous because they are too isolated from the world. know. He comes as a druid to play the tradition, but arrives in a hi-tech submarine, the space shuttle of the time”.
Coming out of nowhere to solve a plot that certainly could have ended without him, Arsène Lupine was erased from the 1979 television adaptation. And the same goes for the 2022 version, which preferred to leave Lupin, and his legacy , to the Netflix series worn by Omar Sy.
“I read the book, I saw the 1979 series. And from the start I told Elsa and Florent ‘Read the novel, but do what you want for the series’. explained the producer of the France 2 series to us about the adaptation choices made by the screenwriters. “It’s a relatively faithful adaptation, but there are differences. In the novel, Arsène Lupine arrives, deus ex machina, at one point. It was not taken up in the 1979 series, and we don’t didn’t resume either”.
“What interested us was the parallel between the soap opera tradition in France and the golden age of series that we are living through today. We started with Maurice Leblanc, a closed session, a mysterious island. And we are from the point of view of a heroine who will live an experience by understanding that she was built on a lie. And all that will free her “.
“With Elsa, we refrained from watching the 1979 series, so as not to be too inspired or struck by these images”confided for his part Florent Meyer, who notably worked on the series of Arte Amour fou. “We inquired with people who had seen it to identify the reason why it had frightened them. And from this reception of the series, we tried to recreate this effect with our contemporary storytelling techniques. . And we also needed a heroine who is an actor in her quest, who reacts to events, that she doesn’t suffer what is happening. And it’s very different compared to the previous adaptation”.
And since Christine, played by Virginie Ledoyen, is “actress of her quest” in The island of 30 coffins version France 2, she obviously did not need the intervention of Arsène Lupin to overcome the influence of her husband or to put an end to his harmful actions.