Witnesses is a French crime drama that has won praise for its slow-burning expertise, and for the fact that it is notably unlike other French crime dramas (such as Spiral and Braquo) in having the pace and atmosphere of Nordic Noir -– not to mention a Scandi-style protagonist in its tenacious female cop, Sandra Winckler, with a shaky hold on her family life. Not a million miles away, in fact, from The Killing’s Sarah Lund. She is played by the excellent Marie Dompnier, and I spoke to her around the time of the release of the Blu-ray of Witnesses:
‘I suppose one could say’, said Marie, ‘that the show is influenced by Scandinavian drama, but that was really a matter for the director, not for me. I spent my time trying to find the reality of Sandra, and that kept me more than busy. I’m not sure that she is a woman who has obsessive compulsive disorder, with her fetish for neatness -– we don’t stress that too much. Certainly, she is vulnerable and damaged —a woman who does not feel she is in control of her life. Her detective work is a way of giving her life meaning.
‘The show is set in Le Tréport in northwest France. Someone is digging up recently buried bodies and posing them in show houses, ghoulishly recreating a family scene. I play Sandra, a detective who works with her fellow policeman Justin (played by Jan Hammenecker) but finding herself with new partner Paul (played by Thierry Lhermitte) to investigate the case. He is a renowned cop who returned after the death of his wife. The series is a thriller which begins in a classic way and then develops into something a little more unusual, thanks to writer and director Hervé Hadmar.
‘Sandra is a character who is frightened to death by the fact that things end and people die. To counter her fear she wants to control everything, which is obviously impossible. It was very interesting for me to play someone with different sides to her character. Moreover what is interesting about Sandra is that her two lives keep colliding into each other, this creates a struggle within her, which was interesting to play.
‘I’ve shot a TV movie for the French TV channel Arte. It is an adaptation of Le Passe Murailles, the famous novel from Marcel Aymé. And I’ll be in a new theatre play this autumn in Paris. For me, the project is the most important. The story that someone wants to tell and with whom I’m going to work; if the project is interesting it could be on stage or in cinema or in TV.
Witnesses is out on DVD & Blu-Ray on Monday October 5th from Arrow