Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch
To be honest, we didn’t know that we would make this film entirely together.
It all started with the idea of writing a version of the script, which Felix was already working on. We had
done this for ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’ and ever since had always wanted to work together again. When the first COVID lockdown came, we had been going through a stormy patch as a couple on a deep existential level and now the whole world was in crisis, but we sat down together and started to write. Somehow, we knew that adapting this incredibly pure story had the potential to bring us healing. And it did.
This is a story about friendship, but we approached it as a love story.
We are friends, lovers, partners and parents; we have a son together. Developing the film enabled us to explore our protagonists’ processes of growing up, finding friendship, losing it, cutting ties with family, reconnecting, finding forgiveness, accepting the other’s choices, facing death and surrendering to the nature of life.
We wanted to make an epic film, told in tiny gestures. An ode to the fragility and strength of every single living being, be it a human being, an animal, a plant or a mountain. Without any cynicism.
We explored how memories work. How seemingly small things that happen in yourchildhood can stay with you, you don’t even know why, and they grow in significance over the years.
We were confined in our urban home during the pandemic and like so many other people locked down around the world, we experienced a great longing for the outdoors, for reconnection with the earth. Nature is a major theme in Paolo Cognetti’s book. While we were making the film it was beautiful to explore the romance and melancholy of nature, as well as its reality which can be ruthless and dangerous.
We were very fortunate to have been able to wander around “The Eight Mountains”, first in our imagination, later in Italy and then in Nepal. We started learning Italian, moved to the Italian Alps for eight months and later hiked up the Himalayas with an entire film crew. Being in the mountains means you have to confront yourself, it’s a merciless and honest environment. Why would you want to walk all the way up to the top? There is no reason and yet still we do it – only to walk back down again. In wonder. One day in the spring of 2020 we’d been working on our first draft for about four months and were very happy with the result. We were sitting around the kitchen table when Felix popped the question: will you direct with me? … And we’re still here, walking up and down that mountain slope.