Stefan Liberski • Director
by Jean-Michel Vlaemincks, Anne Feuillère
- Stefan Liberski, major figure in Belgian television and famous for his hilarious sketches, goes behind the camera to make a surprising and unexpected first feature film
I think your film deals with the death of an ideal, in the sense that future generations are being confiscated the possibility to build another ideal by past generations ?
Stefan Liberski : First of all, I am a father. Therefore I face the following question: "What do we pass down to our children in this world where the only injunction is to enjoy things, anytime, including people considered as objects?" In this film, the father doesn’t pass on anything, apart from money. He keeps his own space. The whole space. He is today’s "homo imperator": Everything, now, all the time, nothing else than self-enjoyment. He is a symbol, but at the same time, I’d like to believe that characters like that do exist.
This paternal injunction in the film is really terrifying. Saying to your own son: I would have preferred that you didn’t exist is a real crime, isn’t it?
When you say this kind of stuff to your own son, it’s as if you hadn’t allowed him to be born. And John Deveau is someone who was not born. He is a prince of oblivion, a fascinating centre because of its emptiness. All he does is speak. He has an extremely clear vision of his own environment. His lucidity which provides him with a certain freedom, gives him this very tragic and dramatic dimension. At the same time, he is totally overwhelmed. It is "Antigone in a tomb" ! (laughs) he has never had access to life and has never gone out of this bunker. When he sets up some twisted job (with associates of his) it is to try to have access to some kind of feelings. Or just to check that he doesn’t feel anything. Although that’s not the case. The injunction to enjoy all the time, this promotion made to the having against the being inevitably leads to perversion. From decaying conjugality to company relocation, I see the same pattern again and again: this perversion to consider other human beings as objects. Yes, this puts into question the kind of ideal that is constantly put under our nose, the only value that exists, money, the only ‘idea’ on which our system relies.
The name Deveau, is it a hint to Fellini that you love and to his Vitelloni (meaning sheep in italian?)
Absolutely. And to other things easy to guess as well. But yes, it is a hint. However today’s sheep are not the same ones. Not as nice at all.
The colours in the film are distorted, as if each time they are in the light it was an endless night with a slightly overexposed light, giving the feeling that they are dazzled.
I wanted to use predominantly cold colours in this bunker where people are locked in their own numbness. The film is about the sense of unreality, of people’s confinement in their own selfishness and desire to enjoy things in life, with the deadlock this also represents. I have chosen to describe a world that theoretically represents today’s ideal. But not the way it is done in advertising or sitcoms. In fact, it’s really strange that people do not pay more attention to this world, because for me, it tells a lot about our own environment.
Is Mimo who joins this gang, subject to a sort of rite of passage?
I think that Mimo is like the others. He is in a hurry to enjoy the goods of this world, mais comes from a poorer background, so it’s a bit harder for him. However, as he is handsome, there is a short cut for him: fame. Unfortunately he is not that young anymore, he has passed the limitation period. (with the same notion of behaving like an object, although unconsciously). In any case, Mimo thinks he has something to do with these people and for the story, he is the revealing device. He is our guide, the ingenuous one, the one that brings us to that world. At the very end, he makes a human act. Perhaps visualising himself. I guess it is a test he passed. That’s the way I see the last shot...
Japan seems to be the opposite light to all this darkness ?
About Japan, I’d like to leave the door open and not lock up things with just one definition. The ending is open. In a sense, the film throws strings towards an ideal elsewhere that could escape this global fate, an ‘untouched’ elsewhere, another culture with other values. And strangely enough, what I have seen when I was in Japan is a layer still visible of values that start to escape from us, that we already do not understand anymore. You can enjoy this feeling of strangeness still vivid enough to have a true effect and not yet numbed by tourism.
there is something shakespearian with the film. It’s like a fairy-tale, a fable with the lord of the manor and the court jester, the Romeo and Juliet and the feeling of rottenness in the kingdom of Denmark?
And there is also the place itself. When they are high up on the balcony of the bunker, it’s as if they were on their own donjon, isnt’ it? But indeed, this fairytale element is very present and I believe the part that takes place in Japan tends to stress this. It is a little philosophical tale in itself. But again, I’d rather leave the questions open. Although I can’t compare with him, I really like David Lynch and his films. And for instance each time I watch Mullohand Drive, I think I understand the film in a different way. "Not understanding everything" is essential to use our machine of common sense. The important thing is not to loose the audience. You have to make the audience feel that it has a meaning for them, and let the image drift over the sense.
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