Bruno Dumont • Director
"I don’t want to lose my audience, but I don’t want to do things on the beaten track"
by Vassilis Economou
- LOCARNO 2018: We sat down with one of the most important and active French auteurs, Bruno Dumont, to discuss his new series and his upcoming projects
Bruno Dumont is probably in the midst of his most active period. His Li’l Quinquin [+see also:
film profile] has grown up, and the second season of the hit TV series, Coincoin and the Extra-Humans, has had its world premiere in the Locarno Film Festival’s Piazza Grande. Also, his Jeannette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc [+see also:
interview: Bruno Dumont
film profile], the first instalment in his Joan of Arc films, will have a sequel, entitled Jeanne. Plus Dumont received Locarno’s Pardo d’Onore Lifetime Achievement Award last week. We had a chance to have a chat about all of this with one of the most important and active French auteurs.
Cineuropa: In Li'l Quinquin, evil lurked on the fringes of the town; now in Coincoin we have an outer-space attack. Why did you need to expand the scope so far?
Bruno Dumont: I like the film’s energy. I tried to keep the mystery and the comic aspect of it, and the fact that you have something out of the ordinary coming from outer space adds a little spicy touch to the final result.
It also gets more political, with references to the National Rally, the migrant crisis, and even the church sex scandals. Is this a comment on what is currently happening in France?
I’m interested in the mechanism of filmmaking. As for the politics, I’m not interested. But for any mechanics, you need to use some oil to make it work. So the politics is just that: a bit of soap on the machine to make it run properly. When I was writing the script, the French identity, the migrants in Calais and the sexual revolution were the topical issues. As a philosopher and filmmaker, I want to dig down to the root instead of scratching the surface, and politics is pretty superficial.
You have always been considered an auteur with devoted fans. Do you think that this series has made your work more approachable to a wider audience?
I don’t really think about that. It is widely expected that comedies will be more popular than tragedies, but I don’t feel that this is an essential question. Don’t get me wrong: of course I want to be accepted by audiences. But nowadays, it’s more difficult to reach everyone, especially with drama, so it’s always easier through comedy. It’s more effective to address the same moral questioning in a funny way than through tragedy. Although I’m now preparing the sequel to Jeannette, and it won’t be funny at all; it will be a pure tragedy. Later, I might shoot a psychological drama or something “normal” for a change, and then I might get fed up and do something completely different [laughs]!
Do you have anything you can reveal about Jeanne?
We are starting the shoot soon, and I will change the parameters from Jeannette. I will use the same approach as I adopted with the series: it will be something that seems similar but has evolved over time. It’s a widely known story, of course, and everyone knows how it ends, so I will have a different focus, a bit like taking a painting and trying to redo it. The topic is secondary; what interests me is the filmic aspect of Joan of Arc. Taking a ten-year-old actress to perform the role of an 18-year-old character will change our way of looking at this story. There are many films about her already, but none where a ten-year-old is burnt at the end, and I think that will change you as a viewer. We are already running some costume tests: seeing a girl in a small suit of armour with a sword creates an amazing effect, and that’s what I’m trying to change. The means of expression will also be different. I might use Christophe’s songs – that’s a good idea [laughs]. It’s so different to Jeannette’s experimental electronic music. These changes or evolutions are similar to what you see in Quinquin and Coincoin.
Usually, lifetime achievement awards are for less active filmmakers. Do you feel more anxious now?
No, it’s comforting! You are always uncertain, asking yourself, “Did I make it the right way? Did I achieve anything?” I can now continue down my side paths. I don’t want to lose my audience, but I don’t want to do things on the beaten track. When someone gives me a prize, it means that I can forge ahead, I can carry on – at least that’s what it suggests to me. But also, for young filmmakers who maybe wanted to take similar side paths, this gives them the reassurance that auteur cinema is widely respected. It’s an excellent message that Locarno is conveying.
Does this serve as a fresh motivation for you?
I never stop or pause; I continue to do my work!
Can we also expect a third season for Coincoin?
Maybe, but in five years’ time, not now. The characters and the actors have to age a bit. Coincoin will be 25, and that will be interesting. Also, Commandant is about to come of age, so I may be interested in his sex life. Maybe it will be a love story, or a trip to the USA, or an expedition to Mars.
Something like The Adventures of Tintin?
[Laughs] Why not? It depends on the dynamics that I will have at the time, but not now. Right now, I don’t have that comic energy; I’m interested in tragedy.
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