I don't know why the world became such a mess, so complicated … - Xavier
Cédric Klapisch completed the initial script for L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE in a lightning-quick 12 days, writing in both his native French as well as English while bringing in translators to help him accurately use conversational Danish, German, Italian and Catalan for each of the students. At the time, he was about to start directing a much larger-budgeted action film, but when production was delayed, he decided to take the gift of time as a personal challenge to make a film in a more free-wheeling fashion. "I was motivated because I saw it as now or never, to write this script and make this movie in just four months. At first it seemed impossible to do it so fast but it soon became an adventure," he notes.
Klapisch placed at the center of his story an average young Frenchman, Xavier, a kind of unfinished soul who begins to define his most important beliefs and desires for the very first time during his trip to Spain. "Part of becoming an adult for Xavier is no longer seeing the world as a simple place, a fairy tale place," says Klapisch. "The world really is a crazy mess - but Xavier realizes that he can enjoy it like that!"
L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE reveals not only what Xavier sees and says but also what he feels, wonders about and even hallucinates, giving the audience a chance to viscerally experience his internal evolution over this year of comedic mishaps and personal discoveries. If it seems a subject close to Klapisch's own reality and heart, that's because it is. He too was once a foreign student - a young Frenchman studying film in New York City, where he learned first-hand what it meant to truly enter a foreign country, to have to change your language, your customs, your very point of view.
Still, L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE and the melting-pot apartment where Xavier lands were inspired later when Klapisch had a real-life encounter with a similar group of students living with his exchange-student sister in Barcelona. "I discovered in her apartment this new generation of European students who have been deeply changed by the experience of living abroad," he says. "It used to be rare for students of different European countries to get to know one another. But with Erasmus, there seemed to be a different kind of generation emerging: a generation more open to the world, curious about other cultures and more knowledgeable about themselves. .. I was intrigued by this. .. But I also thought this kind of apartment was a great setting to make a very funny film, because with this mix of different languages and lifestyles all thrown together, misunderstandings and miscommunications are likely to happen. "
He continues: "Very often being an Erasmus student in Europe is similar to what American students go through when they go off to study in a different state. But one difference is that Europe is more like the un-United States! Between the French and the Spaniards there are far more differences historically and culturally than between a Texan and a New Yorker. So becoming an Erasmus student means not only leaving behind your family and friends, but becoming an alien in a strange land, entering a different world with different customs and different habits, different ways of eating and talking and relating. It's something that can really change your attitudes. "
Of course, traveling to a new country can also bring one face-to-face with the darker realities of deeply-rooted stereotypes and prejudices, which do creep into Xavier's apartment, especially through Wendy's visiting British brother who manages to offend just about all of her friends with his wildly off-base biased comments. This too, came out of Klapisch's experiences. "Wendy's brother is the narrow-minded innocent, the guy who's rude without realizing it, who doesn't at first see the impact of what he is saying. We've all met a guy like that or been that guy," he says. "But I think it's by traveling and opening up new horizons that we can fight that sort of stereotypical thinking. "
In the end, the film became a mixture of the lived and the fictional, the real and the surreal, or as Klapisch says, "a story which lies somewhere between memory, imagination and desire. "