CERN as a large-scale "Auberge Espagnole"

The film director Cédric Klapisch recently visited CERN to scout out locations for a forthcoming film.

Cédric Klapisch and Alexis Galmot visiting the LHC tunnel, guided by Laurette Ponce, from the Beams Department.

Is CERN a good subject for a feature film? To judge by the media hype surrounding the film Angels and Demons, the answer must be a resounding yes. But it’s a bit more surprising to see the likes of Cédric Klapisch, who is known for directing films full of human interest rather than blockbusters, striding down accelerator and experiment tunnels. Cédric Klapisch’s films include "Le péril jeune", "Un air de famille" and "L’auberge espagnol", his biggest success, about a French student who spends a year in Spain under the Erasmus European exchange programme.

Klapisch came to CERN on 23 April with his colleague Alexis Galmot to scout out possible locations for a forthcoming film. It is to be a fiction-science rather than a science-fiction film. "I’m thinking in terms of a comedy adventure story in a scientific context," explains Cédric Klapisch. "It will be based on a very free adaptation of Boris Vian’s novel Et on tuera tous les affreux". The film will address the duality between the good and bad uses of science."

In Cédric Klapisch’s view, human relationships, one of his pet subjects, can be illustrated in any context. As he puts it: "It is my fundamental conviction that a human story at Cape Canaveral is just as enthralling as one at the local bakery." Nevertheless, he is appreciative of CERN. This was quite evident from the pleasure with which he and his colleague visited the installations and from the obvious enjoyment and enthusiasm with which they greeted the explanations from their scientific guides.

Of course, Cédric Klapisch got the CERN bug at an early age. His father, Robert Klapisch, was a CERN physicist and a Director of Research. In fact his first film, lasting four minutes, was about the diversity of the Laboratory and was screened at the LEP accelerator inauguration ceremony in 1989. "In fact it was that film that inspired me to make ‘L’Auberge Espagnole’", Klapisch points out. "I was sitting on the restaurant terrace and I realised that a different language was being spoken at each table. As a melting pot for young people of all nationalities, CERN is like a huge student hostel. The Erasmus programme has allowed young people from all over Europe to experience what CERN physicists have been experiencing for years."

"I am sure that the LHC will discover things that we never imagined," concludes Cédric Klapisch. "CERN is a place where things important to society in general are developed, even if their impact is not necessarily immediately apparent."