We had probably never seen that since, in another genre, the war in Vietnam and American documentaries. An unprecedented and day-to-day dive into the Élysée, from the beginnings of the Russian offensive in Ukraine until the war. Emmanuel Macron’s communicators opened wide the doors of the Palace and the very secret diplomatic cell to Guy Lagache’s camera, from January 19 until June. The result, A President, Europe and War, broadcast this Thursday, June 30 on France 2, is edifying. Initially, the journalist’s goal was to produce a documentary on the French presidency of the European Union, seen from the Élysée. A report with an educational scope, which involved wide access to the diplomatic wings. The course of events has radically changed the situation. “The intent has remained the same, the purpose is very clearly different,” notes one of the producers.
We knew that Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Poutine knew each other. We discover, in the light of this documentary, the degree of closeness between the two leaders, despite the extreme tension of their discussions and the extent of their disagreements. In addition to nine minutes of surreal conversation, which has already been extensively commented on, viewers watch live and almost hour by hour the rise in tensions and threats, until the outbreak of war at the gates of Europe.
The documentary opens with the frowning gaze of Emmanuel Macron in the presidential Airbus. He is surrounded by his ministers from the Quai d’Orsay at the time, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Clément Beaune. The Head of State is expected in Strasbourg for his enthronement as President of the European Union. Back then, there was still the wearing of the mask. The president hopes for “de-escalation” on the Russian-Ukrainian front. “There is a way,” he told Guy Lagache, whose camera was then boarded in the back of a car alongside the Elysée tenant.
The President delivers his geopolitical analysis of the situation, considering, as he has already said, that the management of the end of the Cold War is one of the causes of the current context. Emmanuel Macron wears the famous hoodie in the image below. He is still on board his A330, this time heading for the Kremlin. The countdown to the outbreak of war has begun. We wander with the head of state and his close team under the snow in the Moscow night, at the end of his interminable one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin at the end of a gigantic table. The French leader debriefs, decompresses. It’s his little ritual. He also got into the habit of walking at night in Brussels, after a long European Council.
We also see them attend live, hallucinated, the phone call between Macron and Putin. Then animate the “debriefs” with Alice Rufo, number two of the diplomatic cell, and Anne-Sophie Bradelle, the communicator. The agreement with Russia to hold a summit with the Americans seems to have been confirmed, but Emmanuel Bonne is not fooled. We know the rest: the next day, the Kremlin denied wanting to participate in such a format of discussions. Is it to take public opinion to witness as to Vladimir Putin’s lies that the Elysee authorized the broadcast of such an exchange?
The calls keep coming. Here with Boris Johnson; there, with Olaf Scholz. Diplomatic exchanges, other European summits are interspersed with images of war. The Zaporijia nuclear power plant, the attack on the Mariupol maternity ward, the Butcha massacres… So many additional steps taken in the monstrosity of a lasting conflict. This documentary will remain as an enlightening testimony of the role of France at the beginning of hostilities and in the first hours of this war.