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TORONTO 2017 Contemporary World Cinema

Boudewijn Koole • Director

“The intimacy within family relationships is an endlessly fascinating form of love”


- We chatted to Boudewijn Koole, whose third feature, Disappearance, has just had its international premiere in Contemporary World Cinema

Boudewijn Koole  • Director

Boudewijn Koole garnered international attention with his much-celebrated debut feature, Kauwboy [+see also:
film profile
, and toured numerous film festivals with it. Five years later, he returns with his third feature, Disappearance [+see also:
film review
interview: Boudewijn Koole
film profile
, which has had its international premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema section of the Toronto International Film Festival. The Dutch director talked to Cineuropa about his inspiration, the power of family relations and the side effects of loss.

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Cineuropa: What inspired you to tell this story?
Boudewijn Koole:
 For me, the story started with an exhibition of the work of a British photographer, Leonie Hampton. She stayed with her mother for a whole year and made a slideshow about her stay. That exhibition really touched me. The intimacy of the characters in her work made me remember my most personal moments – they were with my two sisters during my childhood. The intimacy that exists within family relationships is an endlessly fascinating form of love that intrigues me. It is bigger than us, and is both positive and negative. In my film, the sister-brother relationship is one that flows and is full of life, whereas the mother-daughter relationship gets stuck all the time. All of these things I witnessed in my childhood, and I just felt the need to express it and to narrate a story about characters that at least try to find a way to understand, to reach out, to change.

How difficult is it to deal with an unavoidable end, and how is it related to the problematic relationship between the mother and the daughter?
My experience with lessons in life is that most of the time, we follow the patterns that are set out. We do not have a lot of influence. We think we make choices, and we think that it is us in control of the steering wheel, but I believe the steering wheel is fake. The wheels of our trains are on rails, and we just follow the path. The moments when we say that we made choices are stories that we invent after the events have happened. But there are a few moments when we get closer to decisions of our own, and most of the time, this occurs when we are confronted with death. So, to answer your question about the mother-daughter relationship, the film is a quest for Roos to resolve the issues with her mother. The pressure of an end (ie, death) is what the characters need to resolve their issues and grow in life to reach the next level.

Do you feel that the side effects of a disappearance can be greater than the event itself?
In the Netherlands, where I live, death was hidden for many years. A short funeral without any tears was what was considered normal in my youth. Nowadays, this has changed to completely the opposite: funerals are like celebrations, with white wine and music. My screenwriter, Jolein Laarman, and I were talking about the most silent funeral possible, one where the person just walks away, disappears. That was our inspiration. In some old tribes, this was just the way it happened. In Europe, there are hardly any places left where one can disappear – it’s only the tundra high up in the north of Norway that is still a real wilderness.

How does the immersive, frozen landscape work for such an intimate and warm story?
There are many stories about the Queen of Ice, who seduces men when they are out in the cold. She can take over your dreams and make you forget how deadly the cold is.

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