Geoffrey Enthoven • Director
by Martin Kudláč
- On the occasion of the international premiere of Halfway at Warsaw, Cineuropa sat down with its director, Geoffrey Enthoven
The man behind Come as You Are [+see also:
interview: Geoffrey Enthoven
film profile], Belgian filmmaker Geoffrey Enthoven, has just internationally premiered his latest feature, Halfway [+see also:
interview: Geoffrey Enthoven
film profile], at the Warsaw Film Festival (10-19 October). The director sticks to his darker brand of humour in this title: after a bitter divorce and having lost a well-paid job, Stef buys himself a house, a big art nouveau mansion, to calm down and start a new a life. As soon as he gets settled down, a mysterious man comes out of the shower, demanding that Stef leave the premises, thus triggering a frantic tug-of-war. In contrast with Enthoven’s previous film, Halfway’s playground is delimited by the boundaries of the Maison Horta, and he mixes cabin fever and midlife crisis along with equal measures of cynicism and sentimentality. Cineuropa sat down with this year’s winner of the Master of Cinema Award from the Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival, just after Halfway’s international premiere.
Cineuropa: Why do you choose comedy to tackle taboo subjects?
Geoffrey Enthoven: My fascination started with difficult subjects. When I was starting out in the movies, I was fascinated by Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Lars von Trier, David Lynch and Ingmar Bergman because their stories are difficult. But I see so many films that are so serious, and life is hard. I was not a fan of comedies from the beginning, but humour became a way of reaching different and bigger audiences for me. Let’s take Come as You Are, for example. You can make a really sincere and heavy film about this subject that nobody would like to watch because everybody would feel guilty. My work also evolved from social dramas to tragicomedies, the genre in which I can dissect subjects I am fascinated about. But I do not make entertainment for entertainment’s sake.
Halfway is a departure from your previous audience favourite, Come as You Are. Why?
Halfway was really important for me: in my opinion, it was even better made than Come as You Are, although the subject might be a little less appealing, and I think it’s a shame. I don’t understand why it is less successful – maybe because the theme is not so heavy and there is less sex in it, although I think you see enough sex in this film. I am really proud of the movie. We had the international premiere here at the Warsaw Film Festival, and for me, it’s already a success.
How did Halfway come about?
My next movie after Come as You Are was going to be Winnipeg [working title], and we’ve just finished shooting it. But as it was a big-budget film, it naturally took more time, we had work to do in Canada and France, and working between those two countries inflated the budget to a ridiculously high level. But in between, I still wanted to shoot, as the producer, Mariano Vanhoof [of Fobic Films], the writer, Pierre De Clercq, and I still had many ideas. So the idea for Halfway originated in the producer’s head – he had always wanted to make a movie about fighting neighbours. He came up with a story about a guy who buys a house that was haunted by a ghost because he had a similar experience in his life. And I was fascinated by the idea of two people that do not want to be together; they can’t get rid of each other, and they get to know each other so well, so personally that they can use it to destroy or to help each other, and that was really appealing for me. Also, I was attracted by the importance of saying goodbye in your lifetime and what you leave behind the day you die. I am happy that Pierre developed the synopsis into this beautiful script. As it was a low-budget film, I decided to challenge myself to tell the story in one location because that motivates you to be really creative, as the Dogme movement did. I’d already made one movie [Happy Together] set entirely in one house, and Pierre had made one, too [The Long Weekend], so we had some experience there. And so the challenge was to tell the story attractively in just one location.
Did you have any specific requirements for the casting?
I had the actor for the part of Stef in mind while writing the script, and Theo came not long after that. I wanted Jurgen Delnaet and Koen De Graeve because they act in totally different ways. Jurgen, who plays Theo, is a classic actor, really well prepared, and he is more of an old-fashioned performer compared to Koen, who is a modern, last-minute guy who goes with the flow, using more improvisation – he’s more rock ‘n’ roll. So I thought it would be great to combine those two because they are two completely different energies, and I admired them for their previous works and had been hoping to work with them on a project.
Will Winnipeg also be a tragicomedy?
Yes. It is about a guy with a hotel and a restaurant that went bankrupt. And he still lives in the hotel, frustrated and bitter. One day, he receives a message from a rich widow from Ireland asking him to rekindle the affair they had 20 years ago. But the widow also has more sinister plans. It is a film with four main characters with hidden agendas. The premiere is set for next November, and we already have distribution secured in Belgium.
So you’ll have Halfway, Winnipeg, and then holidays?
Well, Winnipeg is going into post-production, and I am already developing, writing and co-writing three new projects.