Created by Bruno Merle and Olivier Abbou, Netflix’s Black Butterflies (originally Les Papillons Noirs) is a French crime series that follows a novelist who lacks inspiration and motivation to work on his second book.
Opportunity soon knocks at his door in the form of a humble and dying man, Albert Desiderio, who wishes to enlist the novelist’s services to write his memoirs.
As the writer accepts the job and begins working on Albert’s story, he realizes that the touching love story the old man shared with Solange in the ’70s is him confessing to the couple’s serial murder past. Consequently, he is drawn into Albert’s bloodstained past. The flashback scenes from several decades ago are set against appropriate backdrops that are likely to intrigue you and make you wonder where the show is actually filmed. Well, allow us to provide you with all the details about it and satiate your curiosity!
Black butterflies film locations
Black Butterflies will be shot entirely in France, specifically in the Hauts-de-France and Occitania regions. Principal photography for the first iteration of the mystery drama series began in April 2021 and wrapped in early July of the same year after 11 weeks of filming. Now let’s take a look at all of the specific locations featured in the Netflix series!
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Hauts de France, France
The Black Butterflies filming department began the first part of filming for the debut season in Hauts-de-France, the northernmost region of France. A property in the commune of Hendecourt-lès-Cagnicourt in the department of Pas-de-Calais is representative of Albert’s house, a place of confession. During the first season’s shooting schedule, the cast and crew were spotted filming some scenes set in and around the Cafe Aux Trois Moulins at 50 Grand Place in Cassel in the 1970s. In addition, some forest scenes were recorded in the commune of Morbecque, in the Nord department.
The production team travels across the region to shoot various scenes in suitable settings including Lille, Roubaix, Tourcoing, Cassel, Béthune and Bruay-la-Buissière. In addition, they even used the premises of La Grand Librairie at 21 rue Leon Gambetta in Arras to shoot some parts of the first season.
After filming the necessary scenes for the debut season in Hauts-de-France, in June 2021, the cast and crew of Black Butterflies traveled to Occitania, the southernmost administrative region of metropolitan France excluding Corsica. In particular, several communes in the Pyrénées-Orientales department, including Collioure, Banyuls-sur-Mer and Argelès-sur-Mer, serve as prominent production sites for the Netflix series.
In addition, some communes in the Hérault department – Sète and Mourèze – are used for the production of the crime series. Some key scenes for the inaugural season were also filmed at Lac du Salagou in the Hérault department and in the commune of Le Grau-du-Roi in the Gard department.
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What happens in the story?
Outside of a mountain town struggling with a string of kidnappings and murders, a reclusive writer named Paul (Antonio Banderas) struggles to write a screenplay he hopes will save his career. After a tense conversation with a drifter named Jack (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) at a diner, Paul gives Jack a place to stay. Soon after, the rude and demanding Jack starts interfering with Paul’s work. When a storm knocks out power to the remote cabin, the two men begin a tough game of who can beat whom that will end at least one story.
Paul Lopez is a screenwriter who drinks too much and has writer’s block. His real estate agent, Laura, comes with a couple named Owens to show them Paul’s house, which he is selling because of money problems. Paul asks Laura to meet him later at a diner before he goes hunting. On the way he receives a call telling him that his screenplay cannot be sent in this way. Paul gets into an argument with a truck driver who, out of anger, won’t let him pass.
He meets Laura. People hear about the “Roadside Killer”. The Owens don’t care about the house, but Laura is interested in what he does for a living. He says it’s been a long time since he wrote anything. Before they leave, they want to meet for dinner. At the same time, the truck driver enters the restaurant. Angered, he goes after Paul, but another customer, Jack, throws him out of the diner.
As Paul drives, he sees Jack hitchhiking and picks him up. He then invites Jack to spend the night in his guest room. Later, Paul says his phone line is down and he has no internet. He explains to Jack how he became a writer. Jack asks to read one of Paul’s scripts and Paul gives him one called “Under the Clock” which hasn’t sold yet. Paul sees Jack’s tattoo while swimming in an artificial pond near the house. Jack tells Paul it’s a prison tattoo of a black butterfly, which is very rare and difficult to catch. Jack convinces Paul to quit drinking and write a screenplay based on what just happened to them.
Jack reads the first draft without Paul’s permission. He’s not happy with that, so he throws it on the fire and suggests that “Jack” is a character who works with the truck driver. That night, Jack sneaks into Paul’s room and puts a knife to his throat to show him that the victim says nothing, unlike the girl in his script who begs her attacker. The next morning, while Jack is chopping wood, Paul searches through old newspaper clippings and other evidence he has collected about missing young women. When Jack walks in, Paul quickly hides the evidence. Later, while working on the script, Paul hears a gunshot and a woman screaming. He goes outside to find out what was going on, but Jack tells him the shot made a bird scream.
A delivery man shows up with some things. Paul leaves as Jack points a shotgun at him and tells him to stop. After getting rid of the delivery man, Paul gets into an argument with Jack over his strange behavior. Paul punches Jack as he tries to leave, but he is knocked to the ground and captured. Jack says he’s worried about going back to jail. That night, Paul sneaks out for a drink, but Jack stops him and tells him he’s helping him by making him break all the bottles. Paul can’t write in the middle of the night because Jack scares him.
One foggy morning, Laura shows up to ask Paul why he hasn’t answered her calls in days. Just then, Paul runs to her and demands that she give him her car keys so they can get away from Jack. Jack walks in front of the car halfway down the street and shoots it. Then he lets her push the car into the water and come back to the house. Soon a sheriff comes looking for a girl who was supposed to deliver a package but didn’t show up. Paul says he didn’t see the girl, but he tries to shout a message, which causes Jack to run out, force the sheriff into the trunk of his police car, and shoot him. To protect himself and Laura, Paul locks Jack out of the house and blocks the windows. When Jack pretends to drive the sheriff’s car away, they try to run through the woods to catch the train that comes every 30 minutes, but Laura trips over a log and Jack catches her.
That night, Jack is certain that Paul broke the deal they made. Surprisingly, Laura uses sewing scissors to stab Jack in the back. Paul grabs the shotgun, but Jack tells him he’s not brave enough to shoot and takes it away. He goes into the study with Laura and ties Paul to a chair. Paul breaks a picture and cuts himself free with the broken glass. Then he goes downstairs, grabs a shotgun and goes into the study. Laura passes out and lies on the floor. Paul tells Jack he knows what it’s like to “kill” and he thinks God sent Jack to him so Paul could kill him and make it look like he was the roadside killer. He shoots Jack, but the bullets he uses are empty. Jack takes the shotgun from him and knocks him unconscious.
When Paul wakes up the next morning, he finds a group of FBI agents searching his home. He sees that the sheriff is unharmed and that the truck driver, Laura, and Jack are all wearing FBI badges. Jack says they’ve been “tracking” him for three years and plays the recording of Paul talking about what it’s like to kill. Paul says that all the evidence found at his house is tainted because Jack and Laura had access to the house and could have planted it. He also says the tape recordings are just his notes for a screenplay. Jack worries they don’t have enough evidence to convict the person. He sees a big machine that looks dirty. He goes through Paul’s things and finds a picture of Paul’s wife in the yard, but there is no artificial pond in the picture. Paul is impressed and tries to make a deal to keep Jack out of jail, but Jack would rather “write his own ending”. At the end of the film, Paul wakes up from a dream that was actually the story of the film. He quickly tries to write down his dream as a new screenplay called Black Butterfly.
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