Why is 'The Summit of the Gods' in French?

Netflix's new animated film The Summit of the Gods is the kind of production that at first seems like it should be in Japanese.

The film is based on a Japanese novel and its manga adaptation of the same name, the first written by Baku Yumemakura and the second created by Jiro Taniguchi.

Not only are its origins Japanese but The Summit of the Gods also tells the story of two Japanese men, reporter Makoto Fukamachi and mountaineering enthusiast Habu Joji. And yet, the film is — originally at least — in French.

Patrick Imbert, who directed the film, spoke with Newsweek about the production, and why he and his team chose to keep it in French, rather than Japanese.

Why is The Summit of the Gods in French?

Imbert explained: "Everything started with a French producer [who] loves mountains and Taniguchi, and he decided to adapt this, and to launch this project.

"It's all French production [companies], well when French and Luxembourg, but it's in French. There is no relationships with any Japanese elements, you see, so it's all French, and we are French, so we talk French."

Imbert went on to elaborate on the importance of having the film be made in French, saying it was so he could better adapt the story because he'd be doing it in his Mother Tongue: "Let me say this, it's French only because I am French, and I need to create the [script] in French, otherwise I don't understand enough."

While the director spoke in English throughout the interview, he joked that it was evident he was "not really fluent" in the language, adding: "It's important for me, but I never expected that the people all around the world [would] watch the movie [in] the French language, it is supposed to be dubbed. That's all."

He added that he does "like" the original French voice acting, and said: "It's important to hear the real voice [cast], and the original [dub]. But this is animation, and there is distance so it doesn't matter if it's in French or in English, I think if it is well-dubbed that is [fine]."

What was it like to adapt the original The Summit of the Gods manga?

Imbert first came on board with The Summit of the Gods to help do character designs, and only became its director "by chance".

"It was only a few days work so I did it," Imbert said of drawing characters for the animation. "Apparently they enjoyed it and they involved me more and more in the project, and finally they proposed [to] me 'why don't you do this?' So, I became a director, [but] I didn't really choose to be."

Going on to detail how he adapted Taniguchi's manga for the small screen, Imbert admitted he was focused on bringing more "realism" to the project.

"I think that the main interest is not in the drawing in itself, not in the character drawings," he said of the source material. "Of course [Taniguchi] does great composition, but first he's a great narrator and I love his point of view.

"I didn't ever feel obliged to copy his drawings, I did what I liked to do and as it is [based in] realism I [thought] to myself, 'Okay, it's a movie, and movie has a more powerful reality for the audience than a drawing on a page.'

"And I thought it was good to push the level of realism more so I made the characters more Japanese, the Nepalese are more Nepalese than Taniguchi's drawings. I felt comfortable with this."

Taniguchi, who passed away in 2017, had a chance to see what Imbert had planned for the film prior to his death.

"We sent him the very first drawings at the beginning of the production, before he died, and he didn't say anything so I think he was okay with this," the director said.

The Summit of the Gods is out on Netflix now.

The Summit of the Gods
"The Summit of the Gods" is out on Netflix now. Netflix