How Niels Schneider immersed himself in the horrors of the post-war period

Niels Schneider seems to have made a specialty of the roles of tortured adventurers. Senior reporter in Sympathy for the Devil by Guillaume de Fontenay and secret agent despite himself in the series Totems (still available on Amazon Prime), the Canadian comedian today plays a veteran of the war in Iraq confronted with drug trafficking in the powerful Sentinel south by Mathieu Gerault.

“The film does not show the conflict, explains the actor to 20 minutes. He describes what happens afterwards, how these young men who lived through the war return to France and fail to readapt to civilian life. The film takes on the feel of a thriller when the hero and his comrades in arms played by Sofian Khammes and Thomas Daloz (both amazing) have to face a reality they are not ready to accept. The one that makes them understand the real reasons for a murderous mission that cost the lives of several of their comrades.

A need for structure

“This character has so many flaws that the film could have been overwhelming, but the fact that the action takes place after the conflict makes it possible to treat the subject in a more universal way than if we had shown the fights”, insists Niels Schneider. The actor has watched documentaries, including Of Men And War by Laurent Bécue-Renard, to better understand his character deeply marked by the atrocities he experienced. “It was impressive to see these 20-year-old guys coming back from Iraq completely haunted, real living dead. I wanted to try to understand what had pushed them to engage, what they found in the war. »

Like the hero of Sympathy for the Devilthat of Sentinel south finds himself confronted in the city with another form of violence than that which he experienced on the ground, less visible but just as formidable. “He needed to find a structure, a family and that’s what the army gave him,” says Niels Schneider. This is what we understand in his relationship with his brothers in arms for whom he is ready to die. The despair of this young man in the face of the duplicity of an officer, camped by an astonishing Denis Lavant, is all the more understandable.

“All films are an adventure and this one was exciting because I was surprised to be offered this role of quiet boor, very far from me”, concludes Niels Schneider. His sensitive delivery makes Sentinel south particularly harsh for the viewer caught up in this human tragedy.

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