“Manipulate audiences for their own good”
by Boyd van Hoeij
- After the documentary Luxembourg, USA, filmmaker and scriptwriter Christophe Wagner has made his first narrative feature, film noir Blind Spot
Cineuropa: What are the origins of Blind Spot [+see also:
interview: Christophe Wagner
Christophe Wagner: I wanted to do a genre film, in this case a thriller, and because there haven’t been any real genre films or thrillers in Luxembourg cinema. And the thriller template allowed me to naturally integrate some difficult and dark subjects, such as drugs and prostitution, into the story, subjects I already explored in my non-fiction work.
Why did you decide to shoot your genre film in the Luxembourgish language?
First of all, I’m a Luxembourger and Luxembourgish is my mother tongue. And I love genre films, especially the more politically charged examples from the 1970s. And I just liked the idea of being the first director to make a thriller in Luxembourgish and I wasn’t sure that the fact it would be in that language would necessarily be a hindrance in terms of its international chances.
What role did the choice of language play during development and the writing phase?
To be honest, the first drafts of the screenplay were in French and we’d hoped to be able to do a Franco-Luxembourg co-production. Our screenplay was, to our surprise, even a finalist for the prestigious French Prix Sopadin screenplay prize, from among more than 250 projects. We’d hoped that the French input would help us in terms of budget and maybe getting a French name actor attached to the project, but in the end there just wasn’t that much interest from France to co-produce a Luxembourg feature. So we went back to the drawing board and I don’t regret it at all.
Given that there are not a lot of Luxembourg actors, were the roles written with specific actors in mind?
The two main roles were written with actors Jules Werner and André Jung in mind but I wouldn’t say they were necessarily written to their strengths because of that. For all the other roles, we held castings. It’s true casting is a problem in Luxembourg cinema, since the country and the number of Luxembourg-speaking actors are both pretty small. One of the biggest challenges for me was to make sure the quality of the acting didn’t suffer because of that and we really put a lot of work into that.
The film shows a very dark and not necessarily positive side of the Grand Duchy. Is this mainly because of genre conventions or are you simply showing a side of the country that we don’t often see on screen?
I’ve always thought that we’d had to let the dark side of the story come out fully, so that’s why the film has this gloomy atmosphere throughout. But I also wanted to talk about the darker side of my country and integrate that into the film as well, a desire that comes from my years as a documentarian, covering socio-political subjects that no-one wanted to talk about. It’s something of a political statement to show the society in which we live the way it really is.
Did you specifically have the Luxembourg audience in mind for Blind Spot?
Of course I had the audience in mind when making the film, but mostly in terms of narrative construction. In a thriller, you have to avoid parcelling out information too quickly or to keep things hidden for too long. You have to toy with the audience’s expectation without making them feel toyed with, anticipate their reactions, take them in certain directions, manipulate them for their own good. In general, I’d say we wanted to make a film for the Luxembourg audience, but having toured with the film at festivals abroad I can say foreign audiences seem to like and understand it, too. Especially in the United States, it became clear that what counts is not the language but the quality of the film.