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Le Tréport in Haute-Normandie. Graves are desecrated and dead bodies are dug up to be left in show houses. Every time it's the same ritual: a woman, a man and a teenager who didn't know each other are arranged to form a new family.
In one of the houses, cop Sandra Winckler and her colleague Justin see a photo of Paul Maisonneuve, a legend of the Lille police judiciaire.
« Tu diras à Paul que les fantômes sont de retour.»
Witnesses (Les Témoins), the 6 X 52-minute French crime drama aired on pubcaster France 2, is now available in France on DVD from Koba Films. Created and written by Hervé Hadmar and Marc Herpoux(Pigalle, la nuit, Signature)and directed by Hervé Hadmar, Les Témoins stars Thierry Lhermitte (Doc Martin, The Closet), Marie Dompnier and Laurent Lucas (With a Friend like Harry). The series is produced by Cinétévé and Pictanovo (Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie), with France Télévisions and the support of Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Région Haute-Normandie, for a budget of 7 million euros. Filming took place between winter 2013 and spring 2014 in Le Tréport and in northern France.
« Vous devez aimer ce genre de baraque, vous.Tout est propre, tout est neuf. »
The duo Hadmar/Herpoux was behind Forgotten Girls (Les Oubliées), a 2007 crime drama set in Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Now Hadmar returns to the north of France with Les Témoins for what he wanted to be a "Nordic thriller a la The Killing or Bron". The idea came to him from a weekend at Le Tréport with his wife and a childhood fear of show houses. He remembered Thierry Lhermitte as a P.I. in Guillaume Nicloux's film Une affaire privée (2002) and offered him the role of the enigmatic Paul Maisonneuve. Hadmar wanted Marie Dompnier, an actress who worked mainly on stage until then, to play Sandra Winckler, the sharp minded, passionate and resilient detective.
« Tu savais que je voulais faire ce métier, non? Tu le savais. Bon. Tu croyais quoi? Que j'allais passer ma vie à faire traverser les vieilles dans la rue?»
Maisonneuve, retired because of personal issues, lives with his ghosts until he's forced to return to duty. Convinced the truth lies in Paul's past, Sandra must work with him to discover who's behind the macabre stage settings. Soon they face a dangerous adversary who will stop at nothing for revenge. Right from the intriguing first scene, the writers build methodically a gripping mystery around the theme of the family. The effective suspense is punctuated with stunning cliffhangers and welcomed twists and turns. Hadmar's direction is stylish and atmospheric. The locations are impressive (the funicular, the abandoned prison, etc...) Beyond its Nordic Noir influences, Les Témoins reminds of the great crime films of the 70s to 80s.
« Tu crois à la vie après la mort, toi? Évidemment que tu y crois sinon tu ne serais pas là.»
Far from Port-Garrec, Thierry Lhermitte is masterful alongside the amazing Marie Dompnier (she won a Golden Fipa award for the role). Laurent Lucas is an incredible Kaz Gorbier. Talented Belgian actor Jan Hammenecker and his character, the likeable Justin, were also in Signature. Catherine Mouchet (Maxine) is perfect as usual, Roxane Duran (Laura) and Mehdi Nebbou (Eric) are excellent. The main title song is We don't die by Tricky (2013). Les Témoins is produced by Fabienne Servan-Schreiber and Jean-Pierre Fayer and distributed by Newen Distribution (Spiral). Witnesses was sold to Germany, Belgium, Norway, Australia, Poland or the United Kingdom, where Channel 4 will air it.
The bonus material of the two-disc DVD
set from Koba Films is comprised of a Marie Dompnier screen test with
Jan Hammenecker, photos of the filming, clips of the magnificent music
composed by Éric Demarsan, and a trailer. Koba also released Les Témoins on Blu-Ray.