A small Helvetic genius
by Françoise Deriaz
- Before making his feature debut, 37 year-old Jean-Stéphane Bron gained experience and success in the documentary world. In 2003, his Le génie helvétique conquered over 100,000 Swiss filmgoers
After making numerous documentaries, what inspired you to make your first feature film My Brother is Getting Married [+see also:
interview: Jean-Stéphane Bron
interview: Thierry Spicher
Jean-Stéphane Bron: As a documentary filmmaker, I felt a very strong desire to try and make something with actors. I poured a lot of my energy into directing the actors, in order to erase all artifice, follow the off-key notes, eliminate the game. I was obsessed, in a somewhat pathological way, by the fact that everything had to sound right. That audiences had to have direct access to the brutal reality of the emotions.
What were your requirements in choosing the actors?
I had very precise ideas about these character’s bodies. For me, the truth of the film’s family had to come from their physical resemblance – the eyes, noses – as well as the expressions, gestures, looks. To reinforce this immediate credibility, I wanted to bring together a true "family of actors" that was a bit disjointed, varied. For the roles of the mother and uncle I sought out actors from Vietnam, and not from the 13th arrondissement in Paris, as some people advised for practical reasons...
Why did you choose not to subtitle or dub the Vietnamese dialogue?
All of the dialogue was written and translated and the actors learned it. Seeing as how the point of view we chose was that of the Swiss family, who cannot communicate verbally with the Vietnamese family, audiences no longer have to understand what is said in Vietnamese, just sense what the expressions and gestures convey. Visual force wins out over words.
Why did you choose to give the groom’s brother, with his camera, the role of interviewer and fill the film with the family members’ stories?
Except for a few clues, a few hints, the dialogue never offers a full explanation of the family’s breakdown. I was interested in how audiences could appropriate this story and project their own onto it. In the same way that the space is always divided between the scene and a backstage, the film itself contains its own "backstage", made up of words and secrets. Words are collected by the groom’s brother, a main, off-camera character who we sense is trying to put the pieces together. This editing effect is, on the other hand, apparent in the film’s structure: one scene is connected to another, one character to another, one genre to another, the unemployed with an African chorus... I wanted all of this to be apparent, transparent, somewhat battered and bruised.
How would you define your film’s genre?
I would call it a drama that also makes you laugh. Or a comedy that makes you cry. Less so a comical catastrophe. Concretely, there are things that break and fall apart in My Brother is Getting Married and others, on a different, more emotional level, which come back together.
... and it’s moral?
The family is dead, long live the family! Having said that, if a moral exists, it resides in the attempt to recreate an "elevated", extended family, which is formed around roles different from those of father, mother and children, and more similar to a unique community of human beings than the stockade in which they are currently trying to lock it. Current political discourse is based upon rather reactionary values, as if the last 30 years had not been enormously devastating to the foundations of the family and the couple… The other moral implicit in the film is that each of us returns to his or her own loneliness with the awareness that our destinies are tied to those of others, even if this is difficult. If the film inveighs the end of the family it, however, instils the notion of shared destinies, a somewhat bruised fraternity, yet fraternity nonetheless...
Is comedy always a part of your projects?
Yes, I hope so, it is the tone in which I would like to find my direction. I am working on an ecological comedy that it set to take place in Greenland. In a place in the world in which it becoming dramatically warmer and warmer… There is no lack of such places.