This is one of those films where the atmosphere of the place creates the flavor. One after the other The Black Butterflies, the first episode aired on Wednesday September 7 on Arte, is one of them: the story of a former serial killer who decides to hire a writer who has no inspiration to write his memoirs. The main plot takes place in the house of Albert, a retired assassin, a place where time seems to stand still.
But it’s not easy to find a house that really fits the director’s wishes and the script’s needs. “We have to meet many criteria”, explains the 20 minutes Frédéric Alexandre, freelance assistant stage manager specialized in finding film sets.
“A house bathed in its own juice”
“The production company, GMT productions, is looking for a house bathed in its juice, with old wallpaper, in the middle of a forest. The decoration should express the idea that time has stopped”, he added .
Co-produced by Pictanovo, the regional film aid fund of Hauts-de-France, the series will be shot, for the most part, in Nord or Pas-de-Calais. However, going around the houses in the forest did nothing. “Usually, it was very remote, without electricity,” recalls Frédéric Alexandre.
And time passed. Three weeks before filming began, the team still hadn’t found the rare pearl. “It’s stressful. I had permission to go away from Lille to look for Arras”, he said. And one day, a combination of circumstances changed the fate of the series.
Some locals are unaware of its existence.
“It was raining, I was stuck near a village between Arras and Cambrai, he said. I called a farmer friend who lived nearby to help me. When I saw a tractor heading down a small road, I thought it was him. I walked this road to meet him and there, I encountered, by chance, this house that seemed to be abandoned, with wooded surroundings. It was almost magical. »
Because, in fact, this house also has its share of mystery. Even in the village, some residents are unaware of its existence. “This is a second home that is essentially unknown because it has no direct neighbors”, confirmed the administrative assistant of the municipality, Sabine Dhorne.
German dispensary during World War II
All that remains is to find the owner and convince him. Frédéric Alexandre went to see a neighbor. “A very nice man told me that the house belonged to a dentist near Douai. I contacted him and we were able to shoot on time. Because, moreover, the interior of the building keeps a soul of the 1970s.
But how did a Norman-style house do in the Artesian countryside? “At the base, there is a castle that was destroyed during the First World War, lined up with the owner’s wife, who was contacted by 20 minutes. The house was rebuilt after the war, then it served as a German dispensary during World War II. It belonged to a young woman who lived in Paris and was eventually sold to my father-in-law, a mining engineer. For him, this house is a real breath of fresh air because he lives in the city, in an apartment. »
And for fifty years, this holiday home has not changed. “My husband keeps memories of his youth there and we haven’t done any major work to fix it,” she admits. So it is better for the production team of the series to have some touch-ups to do.
Filming lasted three weeks, at the end of May, starting in June 2021. “This is the first time that our small town of 300 inhabitants has hosted a film crew. We loaned them to the village hall to serve as a dining room,” explained the town hall.
Since then, this mysterious house has been replicated. Another production box contacted Frédéric Alexandre and the second shoot took place in June, in three days, for the film Black light by Karim Bensalah. “Black butterflies, Black Light… This residence apparently inspires darkness,” joked Frédéric Alexandre. In any case, a perfume of cinema seems to be anchored there.