First Look at the Limited Series All the Light We Cannot See, Premiering Nov 2 on Netflix! – TRAILER

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Netflix gives an exclusive first look at All the Light We Cannot See, the revolutionary limited series based on the best-selling and Pulitzer Award winning novel of the same name by Anthony Doerr, premiering November 2, 2023 on Netflix. Let’s take a first look!

SYNOPSIS

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All The Light We Cannot See is a groundbreaking limited series that follows the story of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl and her father, Daniel LeBlanc, who flee German-occupied Paris with a legendary diamond to keep it from falling into the hands of the Nazis.

Relentlessly pursued by a cruel Gestapo officer who seeks to possess the stone for his own selfish means, Marie-Laure and Daniel soon find refuge in St. Malo, where they take up residence with a reclusive uncle who transmits clandestine radio broadcasts as part of the resistance. Yet here in this once-idyllic seaside city, Marie-Laure’s path also collides inexorably with the unlikeliest of kindred spirits. Werner, a brilliant teenager enlisted by Hitler’s regime to track down illegal broadcasts. Who instead shares a secret connection to Marie-Laure as well as her faith in humanity and the possibility of hope.

CAST

Marie-Laure is played by breakout star Aria Mia Loberti (found by Levi in a global cast casting in which blind and visually impaired actresses participated) and Nell Sutton (young Marie-Laure). Alongside them, Louis Hofmann (Werner), Emmy Award winner and Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (Daniel LeBlanc). Lars Eidinger (Von Rumpel), Golden Globe winner and Emmy nominee Hugh Laurie (zio Etienne) and Marion Bailey (Madame Manec). 

The limited series is produced by Shawn Levy, Dan Levine and Josh Barry for 21 Laps Entertainment. The production studio behind global phenomenon Stranger Things, Oscar nominee movie Arrival, hit Netflix series Shadow and Bone, and movies Free Guy and The Adam Project. Steven Knight is also executive producing, while Joe Strechay (See, The OA) is associate producer and blindness and accessibility consultant.

Page to screen: All the Light We Cannot See director breaks down 5 key scenes

When filmmaker Shawn Levy (The Adam ProjectDeadpool 3) met Anthony Doerr, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, his perspective on the limited series adaptation instantly changed. A rabid fan (like so many others) of the 2014 World War II-set best-selling novel, Levy and his production company, 21 Laps, had been pursuing the screen rights, which he says were “instantly unavailable.” But they had kept tabs on the previous movie version of the novel, and when that didn’t come together, he called up Doerr.

“Talking to that guy was fascinating,” Levy recalls to EW, Zooming in from his New York home in early August. “He’s a very warm, enthusiastic man, and he was just so beautifully thrilled to see his story getting another life, this time on screen. What I got from him is that the genesis of this story wasn’t blindness, as some people assume, given the title. It was the radio.”

All the Light We Cannot See tells of the converging paths of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French teen who’s forced to flee Paris with her father as the Nazis invade, and Werner Pfennig, a German orphan with a natural affinity for radios who’s forcibly indoctrinated into the Reich to track down illegal broadcasts.

The book, Levy continues, comes from “this notion that the human eye can only see one 10-trillionth of all the light in the universe, and that as humans we’re ultimately limited in what we can perceive. But the advent of radio, which was on the one hand a tool of propaganda for the Nazis, was also a way of sharing truth and beauty and information — not to mention codes [from those] that believed the world could be better. It was very interesting to me and maybe not what I would’ve thought quite as much about were it not for conversations with [Doerr].”

Levy discusses five key scenes from the novel that he brought to life on screen for the four-part miniseries adaptation (on Netflix Nov. 2) that speak to the heart of this moving story.

The model of Paris

Touch often links to memory in the storytelling of All the Light We Cannot See.

In one particular sequence early in the drama, Marie-Laure (Aria Mia Loberti) runs her hands across a wooden model of St. Malo as a means of mapping out the area in her mind. She fled to this oceanside city with her father, Daniel LeBlanc (Mark Ruffalo), and now resides at the home of her uncle, Etienne (Hugh Laurie). Feeling the model triggers a memory of how her dad once built a similar model of Paris for her as a child so that, if they were to ever separate or she were to venture out alone, she could find her way around. The sequence begins with a grown-up Marie-Laure feeling her way through St. Malo as the camera then transitions to the flashback of her younger self (Nell Sutton) learning her way around Paris with her father.

“I want to stress that these are not 3D printed,” Levy states. “This model of Paris and later the model of St. Malo are arguably the most iconic objects from the novel. So, we had craftsmen in Hungary build both by hand. And if you look at the close-ups, the wood would’ve had to be sourced from wine crates and discarded trash. So, this is not planks and Balsa wood. This is reclaimed wood that these carpenters honed and edged and hot-glued and turned into these magnificent models. The first time that both Aria and Nell navigated these models with their fingers was goosebumps all around.”

More than that, Levy considers these wooden models to be “totems of the love and devotion” Daniel feels for his daughter. He built them to foster Marie-Laure’s autonomy and independence, regardless of sight.

“The father-daughter relationship, more generally, resonated for me powerfully in the book,” the filmmaker says. “I knew, especially if I was gonna direct every episode, that the father-daughter connection and love would be at the core of the storytelling.”

Werner’s journey begins

The start of Werner’s (Louis Hofmann) story is similarly marked by violence. His life is forever altered when Herr Siedler (Ed Skrein), a Nazi official, arrives at the orphanage where he and his sister, Jutta (Luna Wedler), reside. It’s the moment that will lead to his induction to an elite, draconian boarding school for Hitler youth where he’s brutalized and trained as a Nazi soldier.

“I remember that Luna and Louis made clear to Ed that they were comfortable with the physicality of the scene,” Levy recalls of filming Siedler’s arrival. “The first time that Ed clamps his gloved hand on Luna’s mouth when she tries to speak up, the violence of the way he jabs his index finger into the top of Louis’ head or yanks him up from that chair, there’s a sudden violence to these gestures that are horrifying and important in understanding the true nature of this Siedler character. It was quite remarkable.”

Siedler remains as complex a character on screen as he is in the source material. He’s a relatively low-ranking Nazi official who’s valuable in that he delivers young prodigies to indoctrination camps.

“Werner is his passport to importance with his Nazi bosses, and that’s an interesting dimension,” Levy says. Though, the director also makes note of the inner turmoil he feels surrounding Werner, a boy for which he feels paternal in his own way.

“What if there’s a sudden surge of conscience? You can’t do anything about it because it’s too late. You’ve delivered him to the devil,” Levy says. “But what if you realize now you’ve made a terrible, inarguable mistake? What Ed Skrein does in his eyes, clocking that conscience, is quite heartbreaking and a color that I’ve never seen from that actor.”

This sequence is one of the few we see of Jutta, but the character’s memory is precious to Werner as he embarks on the harsh journey before him. Levy notes, “Long after he is taken away by the Nazis, Jutta remains this fixture in his mind as an expectation that he would fight to preserve his better self in the face of evil and propaganda.”

The Old Ladies’ Resistance Club

There comes a time when Madame Manec (Marion Bailey), the longtime housekeeper at Etienne’s residence in St. Malo, introduces Ruffalo’s Daniel to the key figures behind the resistance operation in the French city. He’s surprised to find that they are all women of a certain age. Levy remembers the levity that came with filming this scene, partly “because all of the baked goods that the props department brought in were actually as delicious as they look,” he says.

These women comprise what is referred to as the Old Ladies’ Resistance Club.

It’s the notion that the most overlooked residents of St. Malo are beyond suspicion, able to operate safely in the shadows. They mention how Nazi soldiers will openly tell them secrets when they bring them treats, because they remind them of their moms back home.

“I think there’s something aspirational about it,” Levy remarks. “There’s something fun about these old women who so often people in society people don’t give a second thought to, but their patriotism remains fierce. Their commitment and ingenuity remains strong.”

It’s a crucial introductory scene because it gets to the root of All the Light We Cannot See: In the face of such dark, depressing material as the Nazis of World War II, there is still light in the form of a group of cheerful older women fighting the good fight, one baked good at a time.

“I never wanted to do a pure drama. This is certainly more dramatic than any movie or show I’ve directed, excluding certain episodes of Stranger Things,” Levy says. (The director of films like Free GuyReal Steel, and Date Night also helmed episodes of Stranger Things, which he executive produces.) “I found the novel profound, but also wildly entertaining. I wanted our series to be both, as well: occasionally funny, specific in its characters, resonant in its themes, and ultimately moving and in some way aspirational, that hope can persist in the face of darkness.”

Home invasion

Lars Eidinger has Adam Driver to thank for landing the role of Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel, the Nazi officer hellbent on finding a rare jewel with rumored mystic properties. Driver had starred in Levy’s 2014 dramedy This Is Where I Leave You, which also featured Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, and Rose Byrne. The Star Wars and House of Gucci actor remained friends with his filmmaker.

“We hang out a few times a year,” Levy says. “I was getting ready to make [All the Light We Cannot See], and Adam said to me, ‘You need to know this guy, Lars Eidinger. He’s doing White Noise with me right now.'”

Driver played Jack Gladney, a professor of the self-founded field of “Hitler studies,” in the 2022 Noah Baumbach-directed White Noise, which also featured Eidinger as the character Mr. Gray.

“No one in the U.S. has heard of him,” Levy remarks of the Eidinger. “He’s famous in Europe for his avant-garde Hamlet, but this guy is just a beast of an actor. I Zoomed with Lars and he read a scene, and within two lines the decision was made. He was so singular, so strange, so charming, but also scary. It was everything I wanted for Von Rumpel.”

Those qualities are on display in a sequence that takes place deeper into the miniseries.

On his hunt for the Sea of Flames, a cursed diamond last seen in Daniel’s possession that’s rumored to grant immortality, Von Rumpel tracks down Marie-Laure in Etienne’s St. Malo home. She’s able to barricade herself in the attic, but the Nazi stalks up the staircase, ready to claim his prey.

“Von Rumpel’s desperation is ratcheted up as his health degrades,” Levy explains. “Lars filmed this scene on his first day. So, his first scene was one of Von Rumpel’s last scenes. He came having made choices about Von Rumpel’s failing health, and he keyed off of a detail in the book that Von Rumpel has a tumor in his throat. So, Lars made this choice to almost cut off his own air right before I would say action. I would see Lars resisting breath so that by the time I said action, you felt this character’s desperation for oxygen. It’s uncomfortable to watch. Sometimes it’s scary to watch, but that’s what makes it perfect for this villain, because he’s willing to do anything to get what he thinks could be the object that saves his life.”

“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”

About a month before filming began, Levy reread Doerr’s novel for what was perhaps the sixth time. What was different with this go-around was he did so with a highlighter. The teleplay by Steven Knight was all written at that time, but there was always an opportunity for last-minute additions. “I highlighted every time there was a description or a line of dialogue that struck me but wasn’t in our show, and then Steve and I integrated them into the script before we shot,” he says. One of those lines was a widely recognized piece of dialogue from the book.

Loberti’s Marie-Laure is sitting at the kitchen table in St. Malo, discussing God with Madame Manec. The girl wants to know if humans see the Almighty upon their death.

“What if you’re blind?” she asks. Madame Manec responds, “I believe that if God wants us to see something, we’ll see it.” That, Levy points out, “is verbatim from the book.” Shortly after, Etienne comes in, wanting to join the resistance efforts, but is paralyzed by agoraphobia. Again, Madame Manec gives a simple but world-shaping piece of advice: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”

“I love the self-loathing that Hugh Laurie conveys, feeling so limited by his trauma,” Levy explains of this exchange. “I love Madam Manec’s fierce affection for him, trying to provoke him into action. I think Hugh Laurie is the s— in this show, just so unlike we’ve ever seen him. And also, I really did make this show as a rabid fan of the book. I love some of the ways in which we diverged from the book, but I also love where I was able to literally integrate the things I loved into the series.”

“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” has become an uplifting chant for Doerr’s work.

Many a book club have already unpacked the line since first reading those words. To Levy, it conjures up an image from another show he’s currently obsessing over (like the rest of us), FX’s The Bear — specifically, the close-up shot in season 2 of Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s Richie observing a message that reads, “Every second counts.”

“[It’s] this reminder, this theme of we can pass the time that we’re on this earth and run out the clock or we can live vigorously,” Levy muses. “And that means different things to different people. For some, it’s the pursuit of good or it’s the pursuit of a goal. For some, it’s loving and being loved as much as possible. How we define it is very personal, but this idea of being fully alive while we have the chance is relatable to all humans who have ever lived.”

All the Light We Cannot See creators explain the ending’s key book-to-screen changes

Warning: This article contains spoilers from the 2014 novel All the Light We Cannot See and the Netflix limited series adaptation.

Since the publication of All the Light We Cannot See nearly a decade ago, author Anthony Doerr has fielded responses from fans of his World War II novel, particularly about that ending. “Lots of readers come to me and say, ‘I had an expectation. I was disappointed at how brief their time was,'” he tells EW.

To explain, Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story placed two characters on a collision course for each other: the French blind woman Marie-Laure LeBlanc (who sends coded resistance transmissions over the radio from the seaside city of Saint-Malo). And the German orphan Werner Pfennig (a gentle spirit who was forced into the Nazi regime to track down illegal transmissions). The ending chapters finally see these connected souls converge when a Nazi officer invades Marie’s home on a mission to find a rare jewel in her father’s possession, called the Sea of Flames. However, they only have mere moments together while sharing a can of peaches before the action around them (the arrival of Allied soldiers to free Saint-Malo) forces them apart again. An epilogue then shows the future for some of these characters.

“There’s a pattern established through stories that we’ve incorporated since the moment we came out of the womb: If you have two characters that start at a distance and slowly inch their way towards each other, they might spend more than a few hours together in a room. Doerr says. “I found myself for years trying to justify that [ending] through historical accuracy. To say it wasn’t very likely that Werner would have more than a few minutes. Usually, I would use verisimilitude as my defense for what happens in the book.”

He now sees the new ending presented by All the Light We Cannot See, the four-part limited series adaptation streaming on Netflix. As offering those particular fans the conclusion they’ve been craving for years.

“There’s a feeling of resolution. What’s wrong with that?” he remarks. “People want a feeling of resolution.”

The trio of Doerr, series director Shawn Levy, and series writer Steven Knight sit down with EW from New York to unpack the big changes made to the story’s ending with the adaptation.

In addition to the can of peaches, Marie and Werner (played by Aria Mia Loberti and Louis Hofmann) dance together to the sounds of Claude Debussy’s “Clair de lune,” the classical piece of music that, along with the Professor’s radio broadcasts, fostered their long-distance connection. As they get closer together, they even share a kiss. The American troops still arrive to free Saint-Malo from the Nazis, but Werner also promises before departing that he will find Marie again. He then sets off to reunite with his sister Jutta (Luna Wedler), who we see sobbing with joy upon hearing his voice over the radio.

We imagined what might have happened and what certainly I, on some level, wanted to happen,” Levy says. “It’s an expression of that connection that feels like destiny come to fruition.”

With Loberti, who is blind, unable to speak with press due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, Levy shares his conversations with her about the finale.

“She felt it was not just additive to have this moment of romance between Werner and Marie, but in fact essential,” the Deadpool 3 and The Adam Project filmmaker recalls. “I once talked to her about whether I would keep it in or edit it out, and she’s like, ‘No! No! It has to stay in. Not only is it true to what I think the characters are and want, but we as blind people, and especially blind young women, are never the object of romance. There is a historic avoidance of those experiences in how the blind are represented.’ It felt so important to Aria to paint with all the colors of life experience because she felt it would perpetuate these tropes of an infantilized person with a disability.”

Knight says the slow dance and kiss between Marie and Werner were always in the script, even in early drafts.

“It’s like two planets are heading towards each other, they briefly orbit each other, and then they spin off back into the universe,” he describes. “The music is so important all the way through the story. The music is the thing that unites them. When you hear music, what do you? You dance. And when you dance, what do you do? You come close. I just felt, in that moment of orbit, it was very important to signify the humanity of both [characters]. The beauty of the book that Anthony wrote is two people who were weathering the storm of war meet each other and peace breaks out immediately. That’s the point of the book and the point that we want to tell.”

The drama series does not include the epilogue portion of Doerr’s book, which the author says was meant to remind the reader of, appropriately, how much light we still cannot see by jumping ahead to the present. He means it literally in some ways.

“How much electromagnetic communication is swirling through us,” he notes specifically. “There are text messages passing through our bodies right now.” Similar to how the radio is used in All the Light We Cannot See as both a tool of oppression and a tool of inspiration, Doerr wanted the epilogue to remind the younger generations that “they have a device in their pockets that is capable of all these same things.” More metaphorically speaking, he says the epilogue also conveys, “We have this incredible capacity to both remember and to heal.”

Knight says he did once consider tackling the epilogue portions of the novel in the show.

As he mentions, “It costs you nothing to go there and try it.” However, “I tend to let the page decide,” he adds. “You try it and you feel that it’s not right. It wasn’t really true to the moment.” The moment he’s referring to is the final shot before the credits roll: Marie stands at the shores of Saint-Malo and throws the Sea Flames into the waves. “In her reaction, we see that there is hope for the future,” the writer says.

In his own way, Levy does give viewers a glimpse of the future. Accompanying the credits is black-and-white archival footage of the residents of Saint-Malo rebuilding the city after the war, ending on an in-color shot of the locale as it stands in the present day.

“I wept to see that historical footage,” Doerr admits of watching the credits roll. “It’s this melding of imagination and research that somehow fuels my favorite pieces of art.”

“There’s the capacity to destroy and to rebuild,” Levy adds, “and that’s what I was attempting to remind people of with that credit sequence.”

There will undoubtedly be viewers of the show who have their own contrary feelings to the ending. Levy just emphasizes that he’s coming from a fan perspective. “It’s not me trying to service some fan idea of this beloved novel. It’s me as a fan trying to do right by this magnificent novel,” he says.

Knight makes a comparison he’s used multiple times already, but it bears repeating: “The novel is like a beautiful mountain. It’s an object. It’s going to be there long after we’ve gone. We were invited to make a painting of it. We’re not saying this is the mountain, we’re not saying this replaces the mountain, we’re saying this is an interpretation of it in a different medium. I feel that the beauty of the book and the physical beauty of the piece that Shawn has directed is a justification of sitting down at the easel and doing that painting.”

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Source: Netflix / Deadline

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