Directed by
Cyril Barbançon, Andy Byatt & Jacqueline Farmer

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An adaptation of 'The Sea and the Wind' by Victor Hugo

The film's commentary took inspiration from some of Victor Hugo's lesser known writings. An improbable coincidence as the poet never encountered a hurricane himself…

While he was researching 'The Toilers of the Sea', Victor Hugo had already spent 10 years in exile on the English Channel island of Guernesey. For Hugo, the sea was at once a source of terror and fascination, and storms, which he observed regularly from the windows of his rooftop study, a metaphor for his own destiny at the hands of the French Emperor Napoleon III.

painting showing a wave on the sea
Victor Hugo, "My fate" (ink pen and wash painting, gouache). © PMVP.

'The Sea and the Wind' was originally a chapter in his acclaimed book, which he later edited out before the publication of 'The Toilers of the Sea'. His deleted text resonates with the raging elements and includes truly memorable storm passages. In Hugo's words, storms are the lungs of infinity.

Victor Hugo's words and our experiences while shooting in the field were strikingly similar : as if a sort of affiliation had been created between his texts, our research and our exposure to the weather. We were struck by his imagination, by the fact that he had figured out how hurricanes function long before we sent satellites into space. Hugo even realised that these powerful atmospheric phenomena brought good things as well as bad.

His writing echoes Lucy's story: a storm born in Africa, grows in size and strength as it crosses the Atlantic, becoming hurricane over the Caribbean and finally dying in North America. In its wake it leaves destruction and desolation, but also brings life, reborn from chaos : a storm is partly curse and partly blessing and it is the blessing which is its greatest aspect.

An understanding of Meteorological phenomena and their evolution emerges in Hugo's writings as early as 1865. The theme of man's place in his environment was also a considerable part of the poet's work. His reflections take on a particular meaning during our times of climatic uncertainty.

"(Nature) would be a monster, if it wasn't a miracle."