The Switch: the silence of men

The Switch: the silence of men&nbsp ; 

Sophie Desmarais and François Arnaud, at the premiere of La Switch at the Imperial Cinema.

Few French-language films in Canada talk about men and women who have been involved in armed conflict, even fewer address the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet it is this issue that the feature film La Switch deals with in theaters from today, Remembrance Day.  

Canada has taken part in several conflicts throughout its history, whether in the two World Wars, that of Korea, Bosnia or more recently, in Afghanistan. Nearly 40,000 Canadians were deployed to the latter country, for an operation that lasted 13 years. Of these, more than 6,700 veterans received disability benefits upon their return, mostly for PTSD.

In The Switch, directed by Michel Kandinsky, a sniper named Marc Leblanc (François Arnaud) returns to his hometown in northern Ontario after a deployment in Afghanistan. There he finds his father (Roch Castonguay), seriously ill and also a veteran. Walled in silence, the father and the son are unable to communicate, to the point where the latter gradually loses touch with reality. 

“It's a military family and a culture of masculinity, explained the comedian François Arnaud met by Métrobefore the premiere of the film at the Cinémania Festival. What is it to be a man and what is it to be a warrior? These are many questions that are answered by a long silence.”

The Switch: the silence of men  

Photo: Courtesy, Peter Andrew Lusztyk

An Inability To Name

Among the cast of The Switch< /em>, the actress Sophie Desmarais embodies Julie, a pregnant waitress who invites Marc to go out to a bar and also, to come out of his shell. 

It's moreover to play with François Arnaud with whom she went to the theater school that Sophie Desmarais agreed to embark on this project. 

“François does an exceptional job in the film, supports the actress. It makes the character endearing. It seems that he does not even know himself what inhabits him. An inability to name, to feel oneself and that, I have a lot of empathy for that.” 

Because, beyond the question of PTSD, The Switch addresses father-son relationships and the difficulty for some men to express feelings to their child. 

“It's not a lack of love, it's is an inability to communicate this love and to nourish this love, says François Arnaud. There is something punitive in the fact of never giving it, but there are many fathers who are like that.”  

Remarks that Sophie Desmarais approves. &nbsp ;

“Learning in life to name your own needs is quite a learning process,” she says. Even more to express certain emotions. It's not something innate, it's something you are taught.

The Switch: the silence of men  

Photo: Courtesy, Peter Andrew Lusztyk

The Anti American Sniper

Watching The Switch, one inevitably thinks to The Deer Hunter by Michael Cimino. In this 1978 classic, we follow a band of friends from an industrial town in Pennsylvania which takes part in the Vietnam War and who – like Marc Leblanc's character – enjoy hunting. 

< p>“The Deer Hunter was at the top of my list. I watched it three times before making the film”, mentions François Arnaud. 

On the other hand, the actor explains that the director and he wanted to do the anti American Sniper. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood in 2014, is inspired by the life of Chris Kyle, a sniper who claimed to have shot 255 people during the Iraq war and who was murdered in 2013 by a former Marine suffering from PTSD.  

“It's not a bad film, but it's really confused about what he thinks of the war, considers François Arnaud. It further glorifies the portrait of the hero who comes home. It was important for us not to go into that, not to fetishize firearms and the relationship to violence.” 

The Switch would be for his part inspired by two soldier brothers whom the director knew, specifies the actor, praising the approach of Michel Kandinsky.  

“I found that very radical as a proposal. There were no lines of dialogue for the first 25 pages. There was something almost documentary.»   

To prepare for his role, the actor met veterans, but also soldiers still active in the army. 

“There is as much experience of war as there is of veterans that I have met”, maintains François Arnaud.

Francos from northern Ontario

What also motivated Sophie Desmarais to participate in this project was the challenge of working on a northern French accent. Ontario. A task that was not easy, she admits, but which was made possible thanks to a resident of Timmins whom she contacted through her accountant, also from this city. 

While the film was to be shot in English at the start, says François Arnaud, French was imposed following discussions on the lack of French-language films financed and made outside Quebec. 

During the premiere at the Imperial Cinema, the film's producer Tracy Legault, even claimed that it was the third film shot in French in the history of Ontario cinema. 

If for now The Switch is only presented at Méga-Plex Pont-Viau16 in Laval, at least as far as Greater Montreal is concerned, the film will be available on Crave from November 13th.

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