Gabriel's Inferno (Part I). Image courtesy Passionflix

Interview: Sylvain Reynard talks the Gabriel’s Inferno movie

I had the good fortune to chat with bestselling author Sylvain Reynard ahead of the highly anticipated release of Gabriel’s Inferno on Passionflix. As a longtime fan, dating back almost a decade, it has been a joy to see one of my favorite books come to life as a film. I was fortunate enough to watch a screener of the movie ahead of its release and it was nothing short of breathtaking. 

Reynard was gracious enough to chat with me for an article I was working on for FanSided Entertainment, but I thought that SR’s fans might enjoy reading the entire interview. 

(Sarabeth Pollock): I don’t think I should tell you how many times I’ve watched it, purely for research purposes, of course.

(Sylvain Reynard): I’m really glad to hear that.  I’ve seen it more than once too and each time I noticed something new – a detail, something from the set, etc. Passionflix did an incredible job bringing the pages of the story to life. Readers will love it.

I watched the movie about 3 hours before my call with the cast, so I had to process it quickly for the call (ironically, neither Melanie nor Giulio have seen it yet) so when I watched the second time I could really focus on the details.

Exactly. The way they set up Julia’s apartment, for example, and what they put on her bookshelves … the set decorators did a great job.

The second time I was able to actually pause, look at the book, and then resume. (And you need that with this movie because there is so much to see!)

One thing I wanted to mention is how well Melanie and Giulio bring the characters to life.

I was involved in the casting process and saw audition reels, etc. And I am so pleased with our choice of leads. Both of them do an incredible job inhabiting the roles. And again, they perfectly translate the characters from the book to the screen.

I don’t think their casting could have been more perfect. One thing that really came through in my call with Tosca, Melanie and Giulio was their deep appreciation for each other, too. They couldn’t stop praising each other, and I think that chemistry really translated on screen, too.

Yes, very much so. One of the things I mentioned to Tosca before we started casting was that the two leads have to be intelligent. They’re playing a professor and a graduate student and so that intelligence and passion for the subject matter of Dante studies has to come through. Also, particularly for Gabriel, he has to make the audience believe that he is completely devoted to Julia. The story is about longing as well as fulfillment and both Giulio and Melanie present that, not only with dialogue but with their facial expressions and body language.

The fact that these two actors are able to play the present-day versions of themselves as well as their younger counterparts really helps with that.

Absolutely. Melanie, for instance, can appear very young. I was struck by how she looked and moved differently in the orchard scene, versus the later scenes at the university.

She has the most soulful eyes, too.

She’s beautiful. She’s the perfect Julia. And as you saw in the film, she can be very fierce.

Her “mic drop” moment at the end will have your readers cheering, albeit wistfully.

I hope so … As readers know, my novels are all about redemption.

Absolutely. You know, when it comes to acting, Melanie and Giulio had a tall task in that your book is 500 pages (the script for part 1 was 200 pages). In a book, you are telling the story. Readers know what the characters are thinking, which is incredibly important for your story. In the movie, though, the characters must “show to tell”. Their actions must convey their thoughts. That they were able to do this speaks volumes.

Yes. This is a challenge in films. One of my favourite films is “Blade Runner,” but I prefer the Director’s Cut. The version that was released widely had a voice over that detracted from the story. But I think the Director was talked into including it so readers wouldn’t be confused. However, the voice over ruined it.  So in “Gabriel’s Inferno,” we didn’t include voice overs that one might derive from a narrator or internal monologue. We relied on the actors to show their thoughts and feelings rather than telling the audience what they were thinking. And it worked. It really worked.

There is that one line, though, that conveys Julia’s thoughts and I thought it was rather brilliant….

We agreed that line was funny and wanted to include it. Also the Professor’s favourite internal epithet for Paul was included … Mary, the screenwriter, had an challenging task adapting the novel to screen. But she did a fantastic job.

Yes! I mentioned to Tosca that I laughed in places I didn’t remember laughing in the book because it was so brilliant and unexpected. And I think those moments of levity are important because the first half of the book is much heavier than the second half.

Exactly.  I began writing the story back in the fall of 2009, and at the time, I recall wanting to inject some humour into the tale. In the novel, the snarky narrator pokes fun at the characters from time time.

The story is also about forgiveness – and that forgiveness goes both ways as Julia and Gabriel have to confront how they’ve treated one another in the past.  But it’s only through their forgiveness that the relationship begins to flourish.

It’s too bad SN isn’t able to get in the story, but perhaps there’s a Quickie in Snarky Narrator’s future…

The Snarky Narrator is always up for a quickie 😉

Get ready…because if you put that into the Universe you know your fans will wish it into existence…

(laughing)

You really see the concept of forgiveness play through as Gabriel comes to terms with how he treats Julia, which in the movie is a credit to Giulio being able to go from menacing to repentant. The scene where he picks her up in the rain is a striking example, as is when he’s standing in the kitchen telling Julia about Rachel’s engagement.

Yes. Giulio demonstrates quite a range as the Professor. We see him dealing with the aftermath of losing Grace. We see him angry, remorseful, etc.  Both Giulio and Melanie present the characters as layered and multi-dimensional, which is exactly what I wanted to see and what readers deserve.

The casting couldn’t be more perfect, that’s for sure. As for what readers deserve, since I was a fan long before I came into this role as an entertainment writer, I have to say I’ve never seen a movie so faithful to a book. Ever. And that’s saying something because these days there’s more than a discernible amount of toxicity in fandoms. In your case, though, every decision was embraced (and turned out to be perfect), the movie is utterly true to the story in every way and my goodness the level of detail is astonishing.

Thank you. That means a lot. You’ve put into words what I wanted for readers and what was important to me as the author. Over the years, I had more than one producer or company come to me interested in the film rights. But several of them hadn’t even read the books …

Going with Passionflix was a conscious decision to work with a team that valued the books and the readers. Tosca wanted to stay true to the books. She wanted to create an experience readers would love, and she wanted to incorporate the elements of Dante and Beatrice into the story. So this was a perfect match. And as you saw in the film, the set, the actors, and the costumes all reflected that vision. We wanted to translate the book to the screen as faithfully as possible so readers would have the ultimate film experience. And I’m happy to say that we have achieved our goal.

You told me before about how many details they seemed to pluck from your imagination, so I watched through that lens and it’s so true. Every detail is spot on. 

The opening credits, by the way. Tosca mentioned that this film had the biggest budget of all her films, and it really comes across as this massive cinematic experience from the start yet somehow manages to keep the focus on its dedication to the story and what fans want/deserve. That’s a tall order for any production, but having the flexibility that Passionflix offers allows for that.

Thank you. Tosca was incredibly focused on both the big picture and the details. Throughout production, I was included and invited to give feedback at all levels. And on some occasions, asked about specific things while they were shooting. Again, this is one of things that makes Passionflix so great to work with – they operate as a team and they invite both author and reader to participate. Several Founding Members even had the opportunity to visit the set and meet the cast.

I know the soundtrack will be made available. What did you think of the music in the movie? The music that played when Julia was running in the rain was perfect.

I thought it was really well done. For me, it was important that some of the key songs from the novel were used for the film. And I was really glad they were able to do that.

In my notes I scribbled that the movie feels like a whole new story even though it’s the same story. The food, the music, the clothes, the sets, the lines…but it feels so completely different.

There’s a line somewhere about old things becoming new … It’s about rediscovery, I think, and maybe also about spending time with old friends. Several readers have mentioned that they re-read the novels to cheer them up because it feels like spending time with old friends.

We’re living in really tough times right now. Many have lost friends and family to COVID. Many are feeling lonely and isolated because of social distancing.  Being part of a fan community can help us stay positive, interact with friends, and have something positive to celebrate and look forward to.

The movie really couldn’t arrive at a better time.

I feel that way, as well. Especially interacting with readers from around the world. It’s been a difficult few months and even though in some parts of the world things are opening up, we still face challenges. So for many of us, it’s important that we think positively, take time for beauty, and focus on things that makes us hopeful.

That’s the beauty of your community. You’ve created a sanctuary for people all over the world.

Thank you. I give all the credit to the readers. This particular fan community contains some of the kindest, best, most generous human beings on the planet. I’m just grateful I get to be a part of it.

It’s hard to believe that your community is going on a decade, and now the movie is going to take it into a whole new level, with more fans and new readers. I’ve seen so many people telling you that they’ve just discovered your books. It’s quite a sight to behold. (And it makes me even more sentimental) I told Melanie and Giulio that this is a big moment. A big one.

Thank you. I could never have predicted that the novel I began partially as an experiment to see if I could write would have ever turned into something like this. It’s all been surprising.

But I give credit to the readers, who made the books a success. And to the themes of the novels: love, sex, forgiveness, family, redemption. These are the subjects human beings care about and especially when we need a diversion or when we need hope, we turn to those subjects.Melanie and Giulio are destined for great things. They will have long and successful careers. They’re very talented and they’re very hard workers.

I love thinking about this journey you’ve been on, as someone on the outside looking in. It’s so inspiring. And as much as I’m a live in the moment kind of person, knowing that the movie is coming in less than 10 days, and knowing that work continues on the other films, I have to wonder what you’re thinking. There have been casual remarks about a Paul story. Do you have any thoughts about what you’d like to do next, even if it’s pie in the sky? (Pie is always good)

I’m excited for filming of “Gabriel’s Rapture” to resume, when it’s safe to do so. And also for the filming of “Gabriel’s Redemption.” I’d like to see my other novels adapted to screen. And yes, I’ve put together ideas for a novel about Paul. And one about Rachel and Aaron. But at the moment, I’m writing something else. Something new. It’s beginning stages at the moment and so I can’t say much, but as always, I write with readers in mind …

Ooh, that’s tantalizing.

I long to return to Italy, however. When it’s safe. When it’s appropriate. Florence is my favourite city and I miss it …

My endless gratitude goes out to Sylvain Reynard for taking the time to chat with me about the movie, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Gabriel Series and the other stories in the Sylvain Reynard Universe.

To subscribe to Passionflix, visit their website. Sylvain Reynard’s website is a treasure trove of outtakes, blog posts and useful information for fans, and to purchase Reynard’s books you can click here.

One comment

  1. Thank you, Sarabeth for a great interview with my favorite author, Sylvain Reynard. No one writes the way he does. His stories always carry an important lesson about life. This film truly came out at the right time. It’s like an oasis in the desert from the world’s problems. Tosca Musk did a brilliant job bringing SR’s story to life with Giulio and Melanie. They were born to play our beloved Professor Gabriel O. Emerson and his brown-eyed angel Julianne Helen Mitchell. I can’t wait for Part 2 in July.

    Ellie (Elena M)

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