“The element of surprise”
by Domenico La Porta
- Lovers in real life as on screen, the extravagant creators of The Fairy continue their burlesque exploration after Iceberg and Rumba.
She is a Canadian born in Australia and he is Belgian: Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel met each other in Paris through their love of the circus and 32 years later, this love still unites them in real life as on screen as shown in The Fairy [+see also:
interview: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon
film profile], their latest burlesque comedy to date. In Belgium where they make their films, the couple collaborate with a third sidekick, Bruno Romy, who didn’t take part in this interview, true to his reputation as a man who stays in the background...
Cineuropa: What did you want to convey with The Fairy [+see also:
interview: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon
Fiona Gordon: We really liked the idea of showing a fairy who isn’t completely finished, as if her creation had stopped before the end. She has all the powers of a fairy, but she doesn’t know how to use them in the world.
Dominique Abel: It’s a bit like when we’re born. We have our whole life in front of us and everything is possible, but we spend our time trying to find then understand the instruction manual. Our fairy wants to do good, but she’s still very clumsy.
You never want to reveal what is in your films. Is this superstition?
F.G: No not at all, but as viewers, we really like the element of surprise that cinema can create and it’s always a shame to spoil this effect simply because we’ve said too much in an interview.
In The Fairy, are there any new elements compared to your previous films?
D.A: We don’t try especially to differentiate our work from our previous films at all costs. It’s the writing and editing which dictate the film for us and in the end we realise that there are different elements, but they’re not intentional.
F.G: There is, for example, quite a social dimension in The Fairy, but nothing comparable with a film by the Dardenne brothers (laughs). And there are more dialogues...
You are partners on screen, as well as in real life. Does the fact that you are constantly reinventing love stories for your characters keep your own love affair alive?
F.G: Actually, there is no connection between our characters and us. The films are more a subject of discord for us because we never agree in the initial writing phase and we bicker a lot about this.
D.A: What you see on screen is our job. We separate private life and professional life otherwise we’d always be absorbed in our films and we wouldn’t manage to have a normal life as a couple. Outside of our films, we almost never row and even when we do it’s always very far removed from the violent arguments which some couples may have. We’re quite laid-back, except during the shooting or editing stages when we’re very nervous.
Is it Bruno Romy, the third collaborator, who resolves things when you don’t agree?
Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel (together): No, it’s me. (laughs)
D.A: Yes of course, Bruno takes an objective look at what we’re doing and we’re also very critical with his ideas. We need to work as three in order to really complement one another well.
F.G : ... and we don’t live with him. He lives in Caen and we live in Brussels.
Like Kaurismäki, you shot the film in the port city Le Havre. The setting establishes a connection between your two films...
F.G: We realised this when we saw Le Havre [+see also:
interview: Aki Kaurismäki
film profile]. It’s a funny coincidence, but it’s not surprising because that city is incredible. It’s a full-scale set and we didn’t have to do anything to make it fit what we had imagined for the film. It was like arriving in the middle of a huge, timeless scale model and Kaurismäki’s film also has this non-dated, even retro, feel to it; it’s the city which imposes that.
D.A: Filming in the region where Bruno Romy comes from was quite an obvious choice for us. We know Le Havre well and in all honesty, the film couldn’t have been made entirely in Brussels without completely reconstructing the set that we used.