Laetitia Casta’s new film “War of the Buttons” is a stunning love story set in France during World War II. The beautifully shot film, directed by Christophe Barratier (“The Chorus”), offers a striking portrait of the Nazi occupation of the country and its effect on both children and adults.
Casta, known primarily for her modeling career, portrays a lovely school teacher in the scenic film. Casta graciously took the time to share some of her thoughts on the film, now in theaters, with Moviehole.
What made you want to work with director Christophe Barratier?
What I realized when I worked with him is that he works with a lot of children and he’s still childlike himself. He brings a naïve perspective and sensitivity to his films. He loves to do very big films that are cinematic and make you dream–which is rare. In France you have a lot of directors that do things that are very realistic and about everyday life.
What did his sensitivity bring to the film?
I was very touched by how he works with kids. He’s so respectful and understanding. That’s why the kids are really good in the movie because he was so sensitive (to their needs).
You’re known primarily for your modeling career. What does it take for a script to pull you in—specifically this script?
It’s about the story. It’s about the people you’re going to work with. It’s about how your sensitivity matches with the sensitivity of the director. It’s also about what you have to give and what you have to say. If you don’t believe in (the project) then you shouldn’t chose that movie.
“War of the Buttons” is based on an incredible book by Louis Pergaud that was released in the early 1900’s. Did you draw from the book at all when preparing for the film?
Not really. I saw the original (released in 1962), which is an old black and white film that’s really famous in France, when I was a child. I’ve showed the film to my kids too and it’s a really beautiful movie. So when they said to me ‘let’s do a remake,’ I was a bit surprised because the original film is so good. Then I realized that Christophe’s version was inspired by the book but in a different way than the original film was. I thought his version was really smart and a bit more tragic. The book focuses on the kids more but Christophe chose to have more adult relationships in the film as well, which allowed there to be more drama and emotional scenes. You have a love story between the children as well as two adults. It was really interesting to look at the story this way.
Did you do any research into the time period?
Yes but in France that period of history is very well taught in schools so we know very well about that period. I knew a lot about it and then I had one of my friends who actually lived in one of the (concentration) camps tell me their story, which was incredibly emotional.
I watched a lot of movies set during that time as well, like “Sophie’s Choice.”
Why do you think filmgoers outside of France will enjoy the film?
It’s about history but it’s also about love. It’s a very universal story about making a choice in life. My character is not a big hero, she’s a simple young woman who takes risks in her life. It’s a really simple movie that children and adults can understand.