"I wanted the film to speak the language of teenagers"
by Aurore Engelen
- Cineuropa caught up with Belgian director Fien Troch following the selection of her latest film, Home, Grand Prix at the 8th Les Arcs European Film Festival
Fien Troch rose to prominence with strong and demanding films that have helped carve out a place for her in the international arthouse film scene. Her first three films, Someone Else’s Happiness [+see also:
film profile], Unspoken [+see also:
film profile] and Kid [+see also:
film profile] take a harsh look at bereavement in a variety of forms. With Home [+see also:
interview: Fien Troch
film profile], which was presented in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival, she has changed tack, whilst preserving her unique style and visual and emotional strength. Cineuropa met with the Belgian director following the selection of her film in competition at the 8th Les Arcs European Film Festival (being held from 10 to 17 December 2016).
Cineuropa: You moved from the subject of wounded childhood in Kid to adolescence in Home, but you also went from using rather stationary camera shots to more mobile ones, how come?
Fien Troch: I wanted and needed to make my first three films, which were rather stiff, because they were films in which the driving force was emotion, atmosphere, and sometimes even the setting. With Home I wanted to tell a story that’s in a way more classic. I had a lot of ideas for it, and adolescence was a period that interested me. It was as if I wanted to cling onto it a little longer as I aged.
Here the drama doesn’t take place outside the story as it does in your other films, did you adopt a different writing strategy this time?
I didn’t let myself think about the atmosphere, the setting, the music, the appearance of the characters in advance. Basically the opposite of what I did previously! I also started co-writing right from the off with my partner Nico Leunen, who’s also my editor, and entered the project into the Torino Film Lab, which allowed me to get some feedback very early on in the process. I was ready for that with Home, whereas before I couldn’t stand feedback, having other people read my material was too overwhelming.
It’s also a very carnal portrayal of adolescence...
I felt like I wanted to close a chapter in my life, and find a new energy, be less rigid with the form. I also knew that this time there would be more emotion, dialogue, and even action. In practice, I had to abandon American-style shots, and use a more flexible type of framing, which would give the actors and I more freedom. I’m a big fan of Frederick Wiseman, we borrowed a lot from the aesthetics of documentary film. In fact, we used a 4:3 screen format to give the film a documentary feel and sense of realism. It’s also a format that gives you images not unlike those filmed on a smartphone, which brings the characters’ bodies and faces closer together. We filmed without make-up, without lighting. We gave the four young actors smartphones, with instructions to film between takes. I knew full well that as a 38-year-old woman, I was bound to be somewhat disconnected from the world of adolescence, and I wanted the film to speak their language, for it to be their film too.
You also show an adolescence that is hyper-narcissistic, hyper-sexualised, fuelled by alcohol and drugs, and even passive, but with a lot of goodwill…
It was also important to me to show them being bored, which is after all a defining feature of adolescence! I above all didn’t want to judge them, I wanted my affection for them to be clear. It’s normal when you’re 16 to get bored, to drink a little too much, to smoke a joint. They are entitled to not know what they want. That’s what being a teenager is all about!
There’s a huge gap between the teenagers and their mother first and foremost...
Like in my previous films, the fathers have a more open relationship with their children, and are more neutral. I assure you that my mother is incredible, the film was not in any way influenced by my relationship with her. It has more to do with me, my desire to show that when you’re a parent, you always have to look like you’re responsible and in control of the situation, and hide it when you don’t know where you are or how you have to or should react. I really wanted to portray this grey area, in which teenagers aren’t angels, and adults are far from being in full control.
(Translated from French)