L’Hermine: is the film based on a true story?

25 years after “La Discrète”, Christian Vincent reunites with Fabrice Luchini for “L’Hermine”. A film in which the actor plays a president of the Assize Court disturbed during a trial. Before filming, the director carried out a long documentary work to make the plot believable and fair, in particular drawing inspiration from a case similar to that of the narrative.

L’Hermine : love at first sight at the Assize Court

The impetus of Christian Vincent and producer Mathieu Tarot (Gemma Bovery) for L’Hermine was born from the desire to collaborate again with Fabrice Luchini. After the short film You don’t have to swear anything and The Discreet, the filmmaker and the actor meet for this dramatic comedy released in 2015.

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The actor here lends his features to Michel Racine, president of the Assize Court in Saint-Omer. If he arouses fear, the magistrate also suffers the mockery of his colleagues, in particular for having been dismissed from the marital home by his ex-partner. Gripped and having heard the taunts of his colleagues, Racine begins a new trial while not really in the best of his form. The case is sordid: a man is accused of having killed his infant by hitting him on the head.

L’Hermine © Gaumont

While he is not already performing in optimal conditions, the president is even more troubled when a woman he seems to know, Ditte (Sidse Babett Knudsen, awarded with the César for Best Supporting Actress), takes his place. among the jurors. Corinne Masiero, Éva Lallier and Michaël Abiteboul complete the cast of this film where feelings disrupt the legal activities of its main character.

A long research work

For the trial scenes to work, Christian Vincent has documented himself at length. Having no precise knowledge of the legal world, the director notably returned to the court of Bobigny.

He was able to attend assizes trials by being equated with a student magistrate, i.e. he was able to discover the “behind the scenes” by joining jurors, assessing judges and the president during the sitting suspensions. Moments that we find several times and that are essential to understanding characters in L’Hermine.

The filmmaker was able to capture the atmosphere of a courtroom and transcribe it. The touches of humor strewn in the feature film are for example not trivial, as he explains to the RTBF:

While attending trials, where really, the cases were very heavy, I was surprised to find that there is always a moment when the public, the Court, wants to free themselves from something, because the pressure is very strong. In a courtroom, no matter how serious the acts with which the accused is charged, there is always a moment when you want to laugh. It’s a valve. We need it to endure in fact, the horror sometimes of the alleged facts. It is terrible.

A similar case

If Christian Vincent attended the trial of four men accused of gang rape in a local trash can, the case depicted in L’Hermine does not come from his presence in court. Before embarking on the scenario, he will also meet criminal lawyers. It was then that one of them told him a story similar to the one in the film. He specifies about it:

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Instead of his wife, a guy accused himself of killing his little girl with cowboy boots, and when asked what he had done with those cowboy boots, he claimed to have burned them. He had wanted to protect his wife because she had already received a suspended sentence for mistreatment and he absolutely did not want her to go to jail. Then he went back on his confession and he accused her. This is the story I was told.

Although he could not have access to the case file, the director began writing the script with this story in mind. He concludes as follows:

I take a lot of inspiration from what I hear, what I see. I’m not inventing anything.

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