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Genre movies, magic realism and poetic cinema

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Fabrice Du Welz • Director


- Meeting with the Belgian director to talk about Alleluia, unveiled at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival Directors' Fortnight.

Fabrice Du Welz • Director

What was the initial impetus for Alleluia [+see also:
film review
making of
film focus
interview: Fabrice Du Welz
film profile

Fabrice Du Welz: The film came about because I wanted to meet up with Laurent Lucas, 10 years after The Ordeal [+see also:
film profile
. I also wanted to use the backdrop of the Ardennes and the hostile landscape that marked my childhood. I wanted to transcend that with the camera, in a style bordering on visual fantasy.

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Was the "honeymoon killers" element present from the outset?

I re-watched Leonard Kastle's The Honeymoon Killers (1970). And in the same week, I saw Deep Crimson by Arturo Ripstein (1996); he was also inspired by the honeymoon story. It became a matter of course to make something based on the true story of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez [nicknamed "The Lonely Hearts Killers" in the US, authors note].

You did a lot of important location-spotting work for the scenery. What were your terms of reference?

I'm still drawn to the flatness of the landscape in some films, particularly in a certain type of French cinema. I reject the notion of a social context. I have nothing against directors who use it, but what annoys me a bit, is notably, in French cinema, the fact that violence is only acceptable if it's justified or explained by the character's social background. The Americans can afford to defy that norm. Besides, in this particular case I was more interested in Gloria's psychotic turn than in the anecdote itself. Gloria is the female character in my movie. I wanted to depict that gradually through the shots and the scenery. I come from a tradition of Belgian cinema and of magic realism inherited from Delvaux, in particular. I make intense, close-up movies. Part of that also involves the scenery. The definitive "Holy Trinity" of Alleluia, is the light, the scenery and the costumes.

What about the sound work?

I was really excited by Serge Bromberg's documentary, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno (2009). I'm a fan of Clouzot and I was struck by the experimental research that he had done on the sound in an attempt to reflect man's schizophrenia. I didn't go down the same route, but the idea was to play on the sound and the music in order to illustrate the psychotic breakdowns. It starts off gently and gradually increases before returning to a kind of calm.

What's your definition of genre movies?

I still disagree with what the "institutions" or a particular critique perceive as genre movies. There's a kind of elitist outlook on "genre cinema". The essence of cinema is the circus, the show. It was born in circus festivals with the showman calling out to the audience: "come to me to see something you've never seen before". Genre cinema was practically born with cinematography. Since the silent movies and the 20s, there have been monster movies: Frankenstein, Invisible man, King Kong... Genre films from very early on also had a social metaphor element, a reflection of the world's ills. In France, since New Wave, it's been rejected in favour of naturalism. That's a shame. I won't make a parochial quarrel out of it. But I like poetic cinema. I cherish Cocteau, Delvaux, Lynch, any kind of alternative reality... I believe that genre cinema is universal. Besides, which films have for ten years defined the audience? Films like those of Michael Mann, the first Scorsese movies, Old Boy by Park Chan-wook: genre movies.

Does this type of film not immediately alienate you from a part of the audience?

I admit that I've wondered about the audience issue since filming Colt 45 [+see also:
film profile
. In order to unite the different audiences, you need tension and empathy. I don't want to leave people outside anymore. I'd love if my mother no longer said to me coming out of the cinema: "your film is special!"

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