“That’s really the magic formula!”
by Aurore Engelen
- We met with Olivier Bronckart, who produced Lorna’s Silence, which signals a shift in the Dardenne brothers’ œuvre
A loyal partner of the Dardenne brothers since1998, Olivier Bronckart became executive producer at Films du Fleuve in 2000, at the age of 27. He has handled production on the Dardenne brothers’ three latest films, as well as impressive co-productions such as Costa-Gavras’ The Ax [+see also:
film profile] and Ken Loach’s forthcoming film. Unassuming yet hyperactive, in 1999 Bronckart founded Versus Production – one of the most dynamic Belgian companies – with his brother Jacques-Henri Bronckart. Then in 2005, they set up Inver Invest, which is specialised in Tax Shelter funding and helps finance projects managed by Versus, Films du Fleuve, as well as La Parti Production and Entre Chien et Loup.
Cineuropa: Lorna’s Silence [+see also:
interview: Arta Dobroshi
interview: Arta Dobroshi
interview: Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne
interview: Olivier Bronckart
film profile] marks a subtle shift in the Dardenne brothers’ style, notably the switch to 35mm film stock.
Olivier Bronckart: We’d already considered using 35mm stock when making The Child [+see also:
interview: Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne
film profile], but at the time we wanted to retain a certain lightness of touch and a more manageable technical format. For Lorna, the brothers wanted the film’s direction to take place within the frame, and not necessarily involve camera movements. We also did some trials using digital. But the screenplay included numerous night scenes, and we didn’t want to go overboard with the lighting, so we opted for 35mm, which gives a better luminosity.
This choice was dictated by both artistic and technical factors. As far as production is concerned, obviously 35mm stock is more expensive. What matters most to me as a producer is being able to offer the best possible conditions to the directors. And the most important thing we can give the Dardenne brothers is time: time to research the locations and settings, preparation time with the actors and time for the shooting process. That’s really the magic formula!
How do you get funding together for a "new Dardenne film"? Does this stage usually go smoothly?
The situation has changed since Rosetta. For starters, the budget for Lorna was over twice as much, and we had to find new partners in Germany and Italy as well as France, as support fund budgets have not increased. The creation of the Tax Shelter fund enables us to ensure that the Dardenne brothers’ films today remain majority Belgian co-productions.
The brothers’ films perform well on the whole and enjoy consistent and steady success: this is one of their great strengths. This enables them to enjoy great artistic freedom, whether it be in terms of the tone, storyline or casting. If they create the character of a young woman from an eastern European country, they can take the liberty of casting an unknown actress in order to give depth and truth to the role. Perhaps one day they will decide to use more bankable stars, but it will be through choice rather than an opportunistic desire to attract funding.
The Dardenne brothers are regulars at Cannes. What impact does this still have today?
To tell you the truth, I would have been surprised if the film hadn’t been selected! There’s a real continuity in their work, even though nothing is ever guaranteed obviously. Cannes still generates incredible media coverage for a film. In our case, however, the film had already been sold to many countries before the festival, without distributors even having seen it.
In Belgium, we noticed that the award won at Cannes in the end received little press attention, no doubt because it has become a regular occurrence. On the opposite end of the scale, Arta Dobroshi told us that the mere fact the film had been selected made headline news in Kosovo. We hope and believe that Belgian audiences will respond well to the film, for there is real loyalty from viewers. But after all, everything depends on the conditions of the film’s release; this isn’t an exact science!