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"Drawing the viewer in with elegant staging"

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Antoine Cuypers • Director


- Cineuropa caught up with young Belgian director Antoine Cuypers, who is presenting his debut feature film, Prejudice

Antoine Cuypers  • Director
(©Sarah De Coninck/FIFF)

Presented at the Festival International du Film Francophone (FIFF) in Namur, Prejudice [+see also:
film review
interview: Antoine Cuypers
film profile
is the debut feature film of Antoine Cuypers, a young Belgian director who was first noticed back in 2012 with his short film A New Old Story. Prejudice is a family drama, a variation on the family dinner motif that brings us back to our definition of normality. Faced with a slightly mad brother who has been marginalised by the family quorum, made up of the authoritarian mother, the ghost-like father, the absent brother and the frustrated sister, we can’t help but wonder: do we not drive others mad ourselves a lot of the time? Between embraced formalism and hysterical family crises, Antoine Cuypers exploits genres codes and takes visible pleasure in playing with the tools of cinematographic storytelling. 

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Cineuropa: Where did the idea for the film come from?
Antoine Cuypers: I started writing, with Cédric Eeckhout, an actor with whom I had already worked before, with the aim of developing the project on a micro-budget. I wanted to do something on family, on normality, so why not do it in the form of a Greek tragedy. That seemed to fit with the micro-budget constraints. We took our inspiration from a number of sources. It took longer than planned, so we ended up abandoning the micro-budget option. 

As you went from planning the film on a micro-budget to a normal budget, did you make any changes to the screenplay?
We kept the same structure, but were able to go into more detail, go deeper into the story. The first version centred a lot more on Cédric’s character getting even; it became less of an ensemble film. The writing stage was key; it allowed us to add points of view, so that the viewer could form an opinion. 

Although Cédric’s madness is clear, it makes us reflect on how we all probably drive someone else mad at some point or another. The word prejudice (pre-judgement) sums it up really.
Yes, it’s true that this double meaning enriches the title. It comes from a legal term, serious and irreparable prejudice, which stayed with me. Obviously, it also begs the question, who is being pre-judged? Who is being prejudiced against? Viewers’ reactions are often diametrically opposed, some empathise strongly with the mother, and others consider her an absolute monster. It depends on people’s backgrounds, their values and convictions, and their own family situation, which can be very telling. 

Aside from the various family members, the house is a bit like a character in it’s own right, isn’t it?
That’s exactly what we were going for. The house was already down as a cast member in my notes; we talked about it like it was the ninth character. I wanted it to feel like the house is affecting the characters, that it’s not just a place where they gather, but gets into them. Our set designer worked hard to give the space this organic feel. I also wanted to make it feel like you could lift the roof off and look in, like a doll’s house. 

There’s a very formalistic feeling to the film: the form says almost as much about the state of mind of the characters as their actions and the dialogue.
My writing is already very visual. I worked with a novelist on this, and we complemented one another quite well. I can’t write a scene if I can’t visualise it in its entirety, and I often already have the staging in mind. More than anything, I wanted to have fun with this, I didn’t want to hold back. I even tried to slow things down! I wanted the staging to be elegant; I wanted it to draw the viewer in. During post-production on the sound, I wanted to try things, take risks.

(Translated from French)

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