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Interview: Joachim Lafosse • Director

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This desire of making a film

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- Between two more serious films, the young Belgian director this time gets behind the camera to recount the trials and tribulations of his art, but above all to laugh about them

Interview: Joachim Lafosse • Director

We have been talking about Joachim Lafosse since his debut feature Tribu, and at great length about Private Madness, one of our favourites, as well as about the filming of his latest feature What Makes You Happy [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Fabrizio Rongione
interview: Joachim Lafosse
film profile
]
. Having now seen the finished product, we realise that it is more of a comedy than a tragedy. We laughed a lot and are elated.

Cinergie: Desire was a big part of making this film, there was a pleasure in sharing an adventure with the audience.
Joachim Lafosse: All the people in the film are people I wanted to make a snapshot of, so that in 20 years I could watch the film and say that we made it together. The film stars Eric Van Zuylen, Catherine Salée and Kris Cuppens, with whom I did Private Madness... There was a balance between work and pleasure among everyone who participated in the film, which I found stimulating and enjoyable.

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The director uses a mise en abyme, in which he himself stars and where he is supposed to direct the actors. The ensuing misunderstandings and the rehearsals lend the film its air of comedy.
I hope that fits in the film. We laughed a lot while making it. I’ve never had so much fun on a set. There is always a third person present in the film, always someone to laugh about someone else. You start to laugh when you discover that you are a stranger to yourself. All of a sudden, I make an outrageous remark in front of everyone and they all laugh. One of the things that motivated me to write and direct the film was that the filming of Private Madness traumatised me a little. Aware that I would be making Private Property [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
and out of fear of repeating everything I had experienced on Private Madness, I wanted to take the drama out of a film set because it's a dangerous place where there are strong relationships. There’s a lot of power. You are so little as a filmmaker. And that was something I also wanted to bring across in the film, especially at the end when Fabrizio says, "without you there would be no films". Cinema is a crazy art! A group of artists who decide to make a film together. When fifteen people decide to do something together, disagreements set in quickly.

But in the end it isn’t a film about a director that makes a film but about people living in precarious conditions who try to undertake something together?
You are now in the essence of the film. What we wanted to show from the beginning was the luck of artists: you have to become unemployed, which is a great employer. However, this path leads one to ask oneself: "What does it mean to be unemployed?". Around me I saw people standing in the queues who suffered from only being unemployed. Now that no longer exists. You are not only jobless, which is the essence of the film: showing something other than what we say about ourselves. An out-of-work director becomes someone who makes a film in spite of everything, while a guy who has lost his job at Volkswagen could become something else other than that by working on a film, and a girl who is not an actress could become one.

The film also examines the relationship between men and women.
It does indeed. I realised at the end of editing that I didn't do this in the most conscious way. What does the image Fabrizio has of his wife say about seduction between men and women? You can ask yourself if he is right to love this woman as an icon. If that can lead him to making a film, it can’t lead him to love. A woman is not an image and Fabrizio hasn’t grasped that yet...

Stylistically, you use two registers. One is based on thoughts and the other on more hysterical body language, which calls to mind Faces by John Cassavetes.
That is one of my references. It is a dream to work with a group of people who live in a film like Cassavetes made. I often think of him. There’s a sort of joy in this approach to filmmaking. You don’t think, you act. You could tell stories about What Makes You Happy [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Fabrizio Rongione
interview: Joachim Lafosse
film profile
]
for hours on end. We were faced with scenes where we were supposed to have a whole load of extras for the nightclub scenes and we didn’t have enough. As a solution, we were sent people that didn’t look at all like the trendy people at these clubs. We ended up having to simulate a large crowd, whereas there were only twenty in the room. When you have to finish a scene at the end of the day, you don’t think about what you are doing next. Suddenly something takes hold of you. Cinema is the art of limits and it helps having limits. It’s upsetting because I have just made Private Property, a film in 35mm in a studio with money and famous actors, but for nothing in the world could I forget What Makes You Happy. And I want to stay on that side of filmmaking. It took us a long time to find a title and then I realised it was a film that made me happy, one that put me at ease, which made me understand that desire is complex but bearable, that we can stop wanting to control things. There are inevitable setbacks but you have to keep living.

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international title: What Makes You Happy
original title: Ça rend heureux
country: Belgium, Italy
sales agent: Playtime
year: 2006
directed by: Joachim Lafosse
screenplay: Joachim Lafosse, Samuel Tilman, Fabrizio Rongione, Kris Cuppens
cast: Fabrizio Rongione, Kris Cuppens, Catherine Salée, Mariet Eyckmans, Dirk Tuypens

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