“The film explains less than the original comic”
by Boyd van Hoeij
- Dutch graphic novelist Guido van Driel adapted one of his own works for his first feature project: The Resurrection of a Bastard.
Dutch graphic novelist Guido van Driel adapted one of his own works for his first feature project: The Resurrection of a Bastard [+see also:
interview: Guidovan Driel
film profile]. The result was the opening film of the recent International Film Festival Rotterdam and was also part of that festival's Tiger Competition.
Cineuropa: What was the first idea that would lead to the graphic novel you would later adapt into a film?
Guido van Driel: The first idea or scene that I had was about this man who's shot in the restrooms of the Amsterdam Arena. He's a criminal and has a near-death experience and sort of leaves his body and hovers over the crowd during the White Sensation [a dance party where everybody's dressed in white]. Then I was commissioned to do a graphic novel about the city of Dokkum [in the northern province of Frisia]. I was free to do what I wanted, so I choose a contemporary story set partially in Dokkum, though the occasion was the murder of St Boniface in Dokkum, which happened exactly 1250 years ago [in 2004, when the graphic novel was published].
How did you develop the story?
There was a lot of attention at the time for the country's extremely severe immigration reforms and I wanted to do something with that too, so I finally had one story involving an Amsterdam criminal who's personality has changed after a near-death experience and who goes to Dokkum to find his murderer and another story of an African refugee who's so traumatised he can't speak about his own experiences and thus makes it impossible for himself to be granted political asylum because he can't talk about what happened to him. Interestingly, when I first drove to Dokkum, the first building I saw there housed refugees, so then I knew that this story I'd invented was absolutely something that could happen in real life.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I made a documentary in 2000. I'd simple bought a camera and started following someone who'd said: 'You've got a camera? Then you should follow me!' He was a man who tried to align the three monotheistic religions through human rights. It immediately felt right, somehow, to look through that camera and see this story unfold.
Your background in graphic novels must have helped when putting together the film?
When you make a graphic novel, you already think about how to tell the story and where to put "the camera." I was lucky to work with cinematographer Lennert Hillege, who sees things even better than I do. He's phenomenal. We'd talk about the camerawork at breakfast during the shoot, and he'd come up with these great last-minute ideas. I'd storyboarded the film, because that's my background, but I learnt that you have to be open on-set to changes because it will never be exactly like you imagined.
Do you have a preference now for the novel or the film?
Some shots in the film are directly taken from the novel, such as the trout with pomegranate seeds. Other things exist in the film that the novel doesn't have but there are certain drawings in the novel that I'm still very proud of. What I like about the film is that it explains less than the original comic did. When I look at the dialogue sheet now, there's almost nothing there; it's kind of frightening to think I worked on the film's screenplay for six years with my co-writer Bas Blokker and that that finally amounts to just a couple of pages of dialogue. We cut out a lot during the editing phase as well, I actually prefer it if the viewer has to connect some of the dots himself.
Was it an advantage that you knew the material so well? Most first-time fiction directors don't have that advantage…
Yes, of course. I didn't have to worry about the story or what we needed in terms of looks because all that was already very clear, so I could concentrate on working with the actors and other things I'm less used to and less experienced with. That was a big advantage.