Is HBO’s Irma Vep a Remake or a Sequel?

Image Credit: Carole Bethuel/HBO

Written and directed by Olivier Assayas, HBO’S ‘Irma Vep’ is a satirical drama series that follows Hollywood star Mira Harberg (Alicia Vikander). Following the completion of her superhero blockbuster film ‘Doomsday,’ Mira wishes to demonstrate her abilities as an actress. So, she agrees to work with French filmmaker René Vidal (Vincent Macaigne) on his next project. As Mira explores her character Irma Vep, the line between reality and fiction begins to disappear. Meanwhile, Mira reunites with Laurie (Adria Arjona), her former assistant and lover, who is now married to the director of ‘Doomsday.’ It becomes pretty apparent in the first exchange between Mira and Laurie in the show that things didn’t end well between them. If you are wondering whether ‘Irma Vep’ is an original project or a remake or sequel, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Is Irma Vep Remake or an Original?

‘Irma Vep’ isn’t an original project, nor is it a sequel. It is actually a remake of Assayas’ 1996 film of the same name. Both projects revolve around the fictional filmmaker René Vidal’s attempt of remaking the real 1915 silent-era serial film ‘Les Vampires,’ which was directed by the early French auteur Louis Feuillade.

Asked why he decided to remake his own film, Assayas stated that while TV shows have emerged as the dominant filmmaking format, he never thought it was for him. he was comfortable with films and the big screen. But once he began seriously considering the prospect of making a TV show, he realized that it was very doable if he surrounded himself with the right people and was granted the same freedom he had with his cinematic projects.

“I started playing with the notion of doing something based on my own movies, and ‘Irma Vep’ came up instantly. Because ‘Irma Vep’ is not a movie,” the ‘Personal Shopper’ writer-director told Vulture. “’Irma Vep’ is a concept. You can adapt it to any kind of film culture. When I did it in the ’90s, cinema was in turmoil for many different reasons. I think now it’s in turmoil for completely new and different reasons. It means I had a completely different engine and could tell a completely different story based on something I already visited in another time.”;

While in the original film, Vidal’s remake is a movie, in the 2022 show, a much younger Vidal is remaking Feuillade’s film as a TV series. However, he prefers to see it as a long film “divided into eight pieces.” This seems to reflect Assayas’ approach while making the 2022 project and is an example of several of its meta aspects.

“It depends on what you call ‘film,’” Assayas told the same outlet. “You can call it whatever you want. I always have the big screen in mind. That’s what attracted me to cinema; the collective experience of sitting in a theater. Now it just happens that that model is not self-sustainable anymore. That’s one of the major reasons for change in the way movies are being made and what’s possible in terms of cinema. I made this film for a platform knowing it would be shown on a small screen. Which is not so small anymore! People have projectors and so on. The border is not as clear as it once was.”

The Palme d’Or and Emmy nominee added, “In terms of the structure of ‘Irma Vep,’ it’s more novelistic in the sense that it’s the story of Mira going through a lot of things in a search for herself in a moment of crisis, shown from different angles. You can call it a series, you can call it a movie. It doesn’t really matter to me.”

Although ‘Irma Vep’ is a remake, there are multiple dissimilarities between it and the 1996 film. For instance, there is no Mira Harberg in the film. Instead, Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung plays a version of herself playing Irma Vep. In the film, we never get to see much of Maggie as a character, and the focus almost always remains on the unfolding chaos around her in the French film industry. In the show, Assayas delves deep into Mira as a character, exploring her identity, sexuality, and artistic aspirations.

Read More: Is Irma Vep’s Mira Harberg Based on a Real Hollywood Actress?