Accident and choice
by Jean Michel Vlaeminck, Dimitra Bouras, Anne Feuillère
- Cinergie met with the Belgian director of Toto the Hero and The Eighth Day, while he was in the middle of filming the highly ambitious Mr. Nobody
After two films both of which were hits among critics and audiences alike (Totò the Hero, The Eighth Day), Jaco Van Dormael is back on the big screen with Mr. Nobody [+see also:
interview: Jaco Van Dormael
interview: Jaco Van Dormael
film profile], the most expensive Belgian film ever (€33m), some international stars and three different countries (news). We meet the director in Brussels, in a 14,000m2 studio where the different lives of Nemo are being filmed.
Cinergie: It took you a few years before returning to cinema. Why?
Jaco Van Dormael: First, I lived (laughs). And secondly because I’m a slow writer. As long as I have the feeling that nothing’s happening, I try to look for the form that suits me.
It seems similar to your first feature, Totò the Hero.
It’s true that the film structure of Mr Nobody is like that of Totò the Hero and The Eighth Day. The film recounts the many lives a character called Nemo can follow. Making a choice is not only having two possibilities, as each possibility is subdivided into a multitude of choices. This idea probably comes from the very fact of being a scriptwriter. Actually, I write many different versions, which don’t necessarily look like each other. I wanted to experiment with what we don’t experiment with in our life: we don’t know what would happen “if”. And it’s this “if” that the film explores. At the start, I wanted to make a film, where two solutions were possible. Which is what was done. I said I had to develop the choice towards infinity: a choice is not only having two possible futures, it’s a multitude of accidents, of butterfly effects. When we make a choice, were we free to make it or did we make it by chance? Why do we have this impulsion? Because of an experience, a culture, more innate things? The film also asks all these questions. Having reached the conclusion that all lives are interesting, that in the end they’re all worth something, one is not better than another.
Why did you choose Jared Leto for this role?
He’s someone who knows how to play very different characters and he really likes transformations. I needed an actor like him, who didn’t resemble the life of someone else.
How do you envisage the scale of the six-month shoot?
Yes indeed, it’s not very long, 24 weeks filming from June to Christmas but it’s something. I think the film needed that for these multiple lives. Each time a new style of setting is required. And each life is filmed in a different style, with a different grammar for the camera, the colours, the decor. At the same time, if all the styles have to be very contrasted, they knock together by fusing.
Like a puzzle?
Yes, indeed. I think when the audience sees the film they’ll ask what the real story is and which one is the dream. Each of the stories is dreamt by someone who is Nemo in another life and this Nemo is perhaps dreamed by another Nemo again. It’s a little like a Russian doll.
Why did you publish your screenplay?
I wanted it to exist like an object. Here again, a screenplay has many possibilities, you can imagine in an extremely different way and I’m going to make it in one of the possible ways. But each reader can make it in his own head.