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Guillaume Senez ­• Director

“There is something very beautiful about adolescence… the spontaneity of it”


- LOCARNO 2015: Cineuropa meets Franco-Belgian director Guillaume Senez, whose moving and gripping feature Keeper was in competition at Locarno

Guillaume Senez  ­• Director

Cineuropa meets director Guillaume Senez - a Franco-Belgian filmmaker, but more than anything a true Brussels native – whose moving and gripping feature Keeper [+see also:
film review
making of
interview: Guillaume Senez ­
interview: Kacey Mottet Klein
film profile
was in competition at the 68th Locarno Film Festival. After finishing his studies at INRACI in Brussels, he made three shorts: Squaring the Circle (2006), In Our Blood (2009, nominated for the Unifrance Short Film Prize at Cannes) and UHT (2012, nominated for a Belgian Magritte Award). Keeper is his first feature film. 

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Cineuropa: How did the idea for the film come about, and why did you decide to deal with adolescence?
Guillaume Senez: It all started with my short In Our Blood. I had become a father a few years before and had wanted to talk about fatherhood. I was asking myself a lot of questions. I wanted to continue looking into this subject, and at the same time I wanted to deal with adolescence as well, because it's a stage of life that really speaks to me. I've made films about adolescence a lot, about the spontaneity of it. I think there's something really beautiful about it; it's a period of transition that was very important for me. I experienced so many things that left their mark on me, nourished me and made me grow, even if my story is different to that of my film's protagonist. It's true that there are lots of films that deal with teenage pregnancy, often seen from the girl's point of view, which is totally reasonable. However, these films often forget to deal with the boy's point of view. I wanted to start off from this perspective. 

In your film, how do you address the reality surrounding you? Which other filmmakers might have influenced you in this respect?
Even though Keeper isn't an autobiographical film, I think it's important as a director to deal with things you know about. If you start from this premise, inevitably you'll move towards a realist film. That's something I fully accept. Mike Leigh has been a great reference for me. The Dardenne brothers' films have also greatly affected and influenced me, both as a filmmaker and a film lover, but also specifically as a Belgian filmmaker. There are so many other films and filmmakers that have had an effect on me: Alain Tanner, but also some of Patrice Chéreau's films, which as far as I'm concerned are “realist” films, but ones that also involve directing the actors. He achieves a level of authenticity and honesty with his actors which I try very humbly to attain in my films. 

How do you work with your actors? What was it like casting Keeper?
The actors knew the story, and we talked a lot about the characters and the interactions between them, about what happened before and after, but I didn't give them a script. We also did a lot of improvisation to flesh out the characters. On set, from the beginning, we would film an initial improvisation where I would explain the stakes and the objectives of the scene. My job at that point was to lead them towards the script, but in their own words and from their own angle.

As for the actors, we started off by doing a casting for teenagers. The difficulty with these castings was that I really wanted actors who were the right age for the characters they would be playing because at that age, there's a certain way they have of sitting, of walking, of dressing or of talking that is very specific. As for Kacey Mottet Klein, it was Ursula Meier who told me about him. He had changed hugely. He was becoming a man and had acquired a maturity all of his own. Kacey very quickly became a foregone conclusion. Regarding Galatea Bellugi, we saw her at the casting, and she came across as kind of the opposite of Kacey. He had this sort of charisma of a guy who's really comfortable in his own skin, who takes up a lot of space – a rounded character – while Galatea on the other hand was quite fragile, a bit shy. They often say that opposites attract, and that's exactly what happened here. We had our couple.

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(Translated from French)

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