An Inside Look at “THE RETURNED” Season 2 with Director Fabrice Gobert
Fabrice Gobert discusses returning to THE RETURNED after an extended hiatus, the inspiration behind the second season and working with the band Mogwai.
Q: On how he approached this new season of THE RETURNED:
A: We found the way to resume the thread of the story through the character of Berg (Laurent Lucas), the engineer who arrives in the first episode and who’s trying to figure out what happened. He carries out his investigation, but we soon sense that he too has things to hide. He’s a guide who poses the same questions as the viewer. Compared to the first season, we had to be careful not to leave the mysteries open for too long. We wanted to clearly re-establish the tensions by redefining the relationships between the various characters.
Q: On the first episode’s fresh premise:
A: One of our references was Scream and all those horror films in which the characters suffer some kind of trauma. You catch up with them a while later, and you wonder what they’ve been doing between their first terrible adventure and the present. When the problems start again, they are a few steps ahead of those who are experiencing it for the first time. That’s the case for the twins and their parents, but also for Victor, Serge, Tony and Adèle. The characters were innocent, but now they have a past. They find themselves opposite the soldiers and Berg, who are discovering a world they had no idea existed.
Q: On getting inside the minds of the characters:
A: In this new season, we are still dealing with the intimate, but in a different way. After the return of the dead in Season 1 – despite more of the Returned appearing – we observe how each of them re-adapts to life in the longer term. There is a book which left a big impression on me between the two seasons, and I talked about it with Anne Consigny and Yara Pilartz who play Claire and Camille; it’s Claustria by Régis Jauffret. It contains lots of details on the way that person managed to create a coherent universe for herself, despite living in a cellar. Her capacity to adapt trumped everything. Our characters are living through an incredible situation, yet manage to recreate the everyday. I like to explore people’s capacity to adapt to impossible situations.
Q: On writing:
A: It all flowed from a fabulous encounter with the screenwriter Audrey Fouché, who worked with Tom Fontana on Borgia. Together, we wrote the story for the whole season. I worked with Emmanuel Carrère and Fabien Adda on the flashbacks. Audrey and I then wrote more developed synopses that we passed on to Fabien Adda and Coline Abert. They wrote versions with dialogue. Each stage enriched the next. THE RETURNED is not an easy series to write because of the links between the past and present. We would sometimes have ideas while writing, which would change certain aspects of the earlier episodes. We were seeking coherence.
Q: On what influences contributed to the look of the new season:
A: This season, we had to steer the viewer to imagine a partially flooded town, a place surrounded by mountains. We set ourselves some new challenges in terms of special effects… [which] allowed me to envisage scenes that I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to stage in Season 1. For the visual aspects… one of our main reference points was the engravings of Gustave Doré, which I discovered at the Musée d’Orsay in 2014. I was struck by these illustrations of fairytales with figures in water, the forest and in darkness. In the new season, the characters at times have no electricity or lighting. We had to bring this feeling to life. In his [Doré's] work, the light is faked, but it brings a power that seemed ideal to include in our universe between realism and fantasy. More than in the first season, we allowed ourselves to go far into the realm of the unreal.
Q: On the music:
A: [Mogwai] provided us with some material even before the start of filming. Their music gave us lots of inspiration. They understood that we were heading towards something more suspenseful. Their work is in keeping with Season 1, and at the same time subtly moves away from it. The moods are more melancholic and less focused on the notion of genre, like the new episodes.