A short account written by Wolfgang Kohlhaase, entitled ‘Invention of a language’, is the basis of ‘The Persian Teacher’, Russian production set in the Second World War, in France in the 40s, which tells how the protagonist manages to escape death in a concentration camp after being arrested by the SS. He avoids accepting his status as a Jew and pretends to be Persian, totally unaware of his supposed language. When being pushed to give classes to one of the German officers, everything becomes complicated, with the consequent entanglement. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart (‘120 beats per minute’) and Lars Eidinger (‘Personal Shopper’) play the main characters in this survival story that its director, Vadim perelman (‘Life before his eyes’), relates to memory. “It is one of the key themes of the film, along with inventiveness,” he relates. “I think human cunning and human survival instinct is fascinating. This is reflected in the script. The story takes an unexpected turn when, by transforming the names of the prisoners into a language, the protagonist immortalizes them. Many people disappeared because of the war and remain anonymous because the Nazis burned all the files and records.
“I wanted the film to be very realistic,” continues the filmmaker. “That is why we carried out a thorough investigation to find out what the transit camps were like, how long the prisoners spent there… We were inspired by a camp called Natzweiler Struthof, located between France and Germany, in the northeast of France. We also add a selection of elements from other fields. For example, the main doors in the film are from Buchenwald. We recreated our transit field based on photographs and video footage we found. We tried to make it as rigorous and authentic as possible. The relationship between language and migration is another issue present in ‘The Persian Teacher’, where the most difficult thing was to portray an unusual relationship between a prisoner and a Nazi officer. “I wanted to show that we are all humans capable of loving, but also of doing horrible things like those hate crimes”, says Perelman. «There is no one totally good or totally bad. We are all in the middle. I try to see my characters from different perspectives and know their lights and shadows. I was fascinated to represent the growth of a person, his humanization and make him able to reach and show, with his new language, parts of himself that he had to hide in German.