Project initially entrusted to Maurice Pialat, who had already begun to film it under the title of “Meurtrières” (see the special edition of Les Inrockuptibles devoted to Pialat), Messidor is based on a crime story which hit the headlines in France in the 1970s: two adolescent girls run away and go on a criminal spree which ends in their deaths. On the face of it, this subject is remote from the world we associate with Tanner, since a violent story of this kind and its social background would seem to impose the realistic, even naturalistic form always shunned by the Swiss director. Moreover, Tanner is instinctively averse to filming physical violence. “Killing a person”, he says, “is generally a gratuitous special effect.” Consequently, of all Tanner’s films Messidor is the only one in which someone dies of non-natural causes. It is also Tanner’s most sombre work, characterised by a despair unmitigated by his usual verbal and situational humour. This is because Tanner accepted the project only on condition that he could recast the original idea and use this violent story as a vehicle for more personal preoccupations: the limits of freedom (already treated in his previous film) are here related to the girls’ frantic flight in the Swiss countryside. What interests him is the possible sullying of this place of excessive peace and quiet, now transformed into a field of experience and criminal fun-and-games by the two characters..