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Article: A Portrait of Marie du Bled

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An upcoming star


- Her first film and she has one of the supporting roles and also narrates. A no-risk ploy by the director as, when she’s onscreen, she is mesmerising

Article: A Portrait of Marie du Bled

Even before enrolling at IAD (Brussels), Marie Du Bled, landed her first role outwith school performances as part of the cast of Ultranova [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Bouli Lanners
film profile
, in which she has one of the supporting roles and which she also narrates. A no-risk ploy by the director Bouli Lanners as, when she’s onscreen, she is mesmerising. She now looks back on her experience and speaks of her hopes for the future with an enthusiasm quite becoming of a beautiful 18-year-old young woman with her feet firmly on the ground. Her cv is in some ways a reflection of the artist’s profession, intimating the way in which culture is promoted in the schools and the eventual pressures of an ever harsher real world. What inspires the vocation to perform in budding young actors bound for an industry which – faced with a decreasing number of the classic routes (such as the schools) into the business and a proliferation of outlets of personal expression – is beset by doubt ?

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"Going back to the start, my very first contact with the business was quite simply my primary school, where I participated in an extracurricular poetry recitation workshop. Later, at secondary (Athenée Charles Janssens), I did other workshops for a couple of years, but stopped because the lessons weren’t really what I was looking for, and then for a year or so I took a break, as it were. But I was still keen, so I enrolled on a course in declamation at the Academy, and then for two years also studied theatre at the same place. Then I applied to IAD." She trod, in other words, a well-worn path, and, since Marie is a young actress still learning her trade, it made sense to ask her when she decided to take the plunge. "It was a gradual process and last-minute decision. Partly, perhaps, because I was worried about what my parents might think, even though they had never actually raised any objections. I think that, up until the very last minute, I still wasn’t sure that that was what I really wanted to do in life or rather, yes, I was sure that it was something that I wanted to do but wondered whether it was really such a good idea, whether it was the right thing to do, and so on. On the one hand, I am someone who always suffers misgivings and, on the other, people are always telling me, and justifiably so, that it’s not an easy job, that there are very few openings and that it’s almost impossible to earn a living from it in Belgium. In addition, I was doing really well at school and on my way to university! The yearning was there, but not the conviction."

Conviction did eventually come, thanks partly to the experience of Ultranova of which she speaks with a twinkle in her eye. "It gave me a foothold within the film world, of which I knew nothing, and which I loved and which helped me decide what I was going to do since the film was shot during the last year of school, i.e. just before Decision Day! It was an opportunity and a half that materialised unexpectedly. I had sent my two-line-and-passport-photo of a cv to Gerda Diddens, a year or two before casting and wasn’t even sure that she’d received it. And then, one day, out of the blue, there appeared a message on my answering machine..." When she came out of the audition (her very first) : "I was absolutely sure, and I’m not being modest, that I’d failed it. Because... I am who I am and also I’d heard the end of the audition of the actress in front of me and they’d asked her loads of questions about her availability and I thought, Marie, if they don’t ask you about yours, you can forget it. They just asked me what school I went to, so I thought I hadn’t got the part."

Actually, she wasn’t wrong. Bouli makes no bones about the fact that she wasn’t quite the person they were looking for to fill the role for which she was auditioning, but, charmed by her performance, he creates the character of Jeanne just for her, although it’ll be a while before she comes to realise this. "You can’t really put your finger on the type of character that Jeanne is, she’s not schizophrenic, but she is on a high wire, and likely to lose her balance at any moment as she’s completely lost her bearings. You feel that she’s forever on the verge of something stupid. I really felt for her, Bouli assigned me a really great character, but I didn’t try to discover what we had in common or what we didn’t. It’s like meeting a real person, there’s a connection, but you don’t really know why." And so Marie’s job was to create, during the staggered shooting, a Jeanne that you at first warm to, but who then gives cause for concern. A performance based on instinct, in self-taught style and with no "idols" to inspire her. When speaking of her co-stars, she says that the atmosphere on the set was fantastic and that they made her feel very much at home, but, re-acting tips, nowt. An approach that also has its drawbacks. "Seeing the film was a real shock, I had only seen excerpts at the soundtrack stage and the first time you see yourself... I have to say that Marie the actress disappointed me, but I need some time to lapse before the next viewing, just to take a step back from my work and enjoy it like any other filmgoer, if that’s possible!" "Knowing the initial script, the end result is surprising. Bouli has edited out quite a lot – quite a few of the characters, too – and, well, maybe this is something I’ll pick up in time, but at the moment reading a script doesn’t let me visualise the film, and the highly aesthetic aspect of our film was quite striking, something I just hadn’t expected."

Opportunity knocked twice for Marie Du Bled by offering her a substantial first role in an excellent film that one can for the moment only pray is successful. But opportunities don’t always come a-begging. "Ideally, I would like to have options right across the board. I don’t want to abandon the theatre even though the film was a great experience." A film which allowed her to make a particular person’s acquaintance, as can only arise with the unique conditions of a cinema shoot. The very mention of the name “Bouli Lanners” brings a smile to her face. You sense that there’s more to him than she’s willing to reveal. "It was terrific meeting him. Bouli is as Bouli does, it’s... it’s difficult to describe without resorting to cliché, but he’s kind and on the set he puts you under no pressure whatsoever, he takes care of you. Even though the film has long since wrapped he’s still a special person in my life and insists we stay in touch, as if we were all family. Berlin especially, that was really just one big happy family holiday. It was the first time I’d ever been to Berlin, but I didn’t see the city at all! It was an opportunity to see the cinema as a business after the experience of shooting the film and we had a great time!"

Now sure that she’s in the right job, Marie is taking things seriously. "What frightens me most is the risk of being typecast. I’d like to play a wide variety of roles in order to display all sides of my character (if you’ll pardon the pun). All actors have a role that’s tailor-made for them and, unless instructed to the contrary, will take the easy option. The hardest thing will be getting these opportunities." Best to keep your options open, that’s true, in a career that has scarcely begun and in a tough environment. But don’t waste time worrying about Marie Du Bled, go see for yourselves in a film that boasts, both in front of and behind the camera, a host of "Made-in-Belgium" talent.

Filmed interview on


international title: Ultranova
original title: Ultranova
country: Belgium, France
sales agent: Films Distribution
year: 2004
directed by: Bouli Lanners
cast: Vincent Lecuyer, Hélène De Reymaeker, Marie Du Bled, Michaël Abiteboul, Vincent Berlogey

main awards/selection

Berlinale 2005 Panorama (selection)
C.I.C.A.E Prize

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