The Tiger and the President: the crazy story of an (almost) completely forgotten president. Where is the true from the false in the film? A lot of fiction or a film based on real events only?
1920, the Roaring Twenties. Georges Clemenceau has just lost the presidential election to the unknown Paul Deschanel, an idealist who wants to change the country. But one evening the latter falls from a train and vanishes. In the early morning, France is looking for its president, a golden opportunity for Tiger Clemenceau…
Here is the comedy pitch The Tiger and the President, released at the cinema this Wednesday. This historical film is based on real events, around two personalities of the Third Republic, Georges Clemenceau (the Tiger) and Paul Deschanel (the President). But is this film essentially based on proven facts or rather freely inspired by historical facts? Response elements !
Three biographies have been devoted to Paul Deschanel. To prepare the film, the director and screenwriter relied mainly on that of Thierry Billard, written in the 80s because “she valued him, unlike the one in the 1930s who castigated him.” The director also obtained the completeness of his speeches, which make up nearly six thousand pages, and listened to the digitized recordings of his speeches at the BNF. A vast work of documentation was therefore first established.
The majority of the facts reported in the film are true and proven
Nevertheless, from the first images of the film, the spectator is warned that the film takes a share of freedom. As director Jean-Marc Peyrefitte, whose first feature film this is, indicates, “we wrote, from the opening sentence, that we were “inspired by real facts”, and that we even invented (“imagined”) some of them. This is to say how much we assume the fact that it is a fiction…“
“The majority of the facts reported in the film are true and proven, and it is the ideas of Paul Deschanel, which seem dreamy but which are all authentic, which inspired us”. he continues in the film’s press kit.
So where is the fictional part of the film hidden? “We brought fictional elements into this story, in particular to reinforce the rivalry between the two characters. On the one hand, Deschanel did not experience, strictly speaking, a “state of grace”: he, almost immediately after his election, sank into anxieties and medication. Thus, the cabinet scene where he authoritatively dismisses a member of his government and makes Millerand bend is purely fictitious. On the other side, the scene where Clemenceau advises the Veronal to Germaine Deschanel is totally invented, Clemenceau did not accuse the “Bolsheviks” of having kidnapped Deschanel (even if he accused them of all the evils of the earth) , and he left for the United States well after the election of Millerand.”
Leave room for comedy
The character embodied by Anna Mouglalis is invented. “It so happened that Deschanel and Clemenceau frequented the same salon, which allowed us to create the character of Ariane, the prostitute played by Anna Mouglalis, who has become the pillow confidante of the torments of the two characters, like an oracle who knows the people and whom the two men come to consult in their common quest for public opinion“.
In order to give pride of place to comedy and entertainment, the scriptwriters did not hesitate to underline the whimsical part of certain facts: “I relied on a thesis by psychiatrist Gérard Milleret which supports what no biography has ever suggested about Paul Deschanel: he would have taken Veronal, the first barbiturate molecule, which was recommended to him after his election, but which was banned six months later. According to Dr. Milleret, the drug gave him ” confuso-oneiric awakenings – in other words sleepwalking – and he would therefore have been in an advanced state of sleepwalking when he ejected from the train. Others speak of an accident, or even of a suicide attempt. The more I looked, the more I discovered an abundance of hypotheses, which confirmed to me that it was necessary to have a somewhat esoteric relationship to this character”. we learn from the director.
The film chooses to tell the life of the president with the incredible and the extraordinary side of certain episodes of his life. Inspired by real facts, but with romance and fantasy.
The Tiger and the President, co-written by Jean-Marc Peyrefitte and Marc Syrigas, is Jean-Marc Peyrefitte’s first feature film, currently in theaters.