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LOCARNO 2019 Piazza Grande

Fabrice du Welz • Director of Adoration

"I’m an intuitive filmmaker. I work like a primitive, in the moment”

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- Cineuropa met up with Fabrice du Welz, on the occasion of the world premiere of his new film, Adoration, on the Piazza Grande in Locarno

Fabrice du Welz • Director of Adoration

Adoration [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Fabrice du Welz
film profile
]
just closed Fabrice du Welz’s trilogy of films set in the Ardennes, after The Ordeal [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and Alleluia [+see also:
film review
trailer
making of
interview: Fabrice Du Welz
film profile
]
, magnifying this time the crazy love that a young, simple and innocent boy feels for a psychotic young girl. The Belgian filmmaker follows the mad escape of Paul and Gloria, who become inseparable. We met with him on the occasion of the film’s world premiere on the Piazza Grande at the Locarno Film Festival.

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Cineuropa : Your young hero, Paul, lives intensely and absolutely a love story that seems to go over his head.
Fabrice du Welz :
The idea was to approach this story in the simplest and most visceral way possible. These teenagers are faced with emotions too big for them, and they get lost in them. During adolescence, love stories crush us, the feeling of being in love is total. I wanted to treat love like a spiritual awakening that tends to mysticism.

I hate realism in cinema, even though I love hyper-realism. What I’m looking for is a kind of abstraction, in everything. To push the codes of drama towards something that is both very abstract, and very physical.

But at the same time, it’s a film where I laid myself bare much more than I usually do. I usually hide a little bit behind the grotesque and behind blood-spattered scenes. Here, there was a real desire for purification. The film relies entirely on this kid, everything is seen from a first-person perspective, with the gaze of an innocent and gentle person. Someone who is profoundly good.

With Paul, it’s the first time that you have someone so kind at the centre of your story.
Access the emotion is something I’ve been looking for for a very long time. I could feel that this was the moment to try something new, to overcome my shyness. The great filmmakers I love, from Bergman to Almodóvar, are those who do not hesitate to use their intimacy, their private emotions, to make films with them. It is something I admire, but which also scares me. I’m a bit at a crossroads with this film. I needed to confront myself with something more simple, and to put myself in danger.

As the film progresses, there is a sort of shift: the two teenagers are less and less in reality?
I always make films about frontiers. We go from circle to circle, it’s harder to orient ourselves, things become almost ghostly. What I was interested in was to make them evolve in a paradise, then in a purgatory, then in an infernal space, until a kind of deliverance that is subject to the interpretation of each viewer.

You have a very organic approach during filming. You film in 360 degrees, as close as possible to the bodies of the actors, and you give them a lot of directions during each take.
I work like a visual artist. We shot on film, and we used the zoom a lot. I can’t not live the sequences, I need to be an actor. I’m right there with the actors, and I work with them. Well, sometimes I really get too excited, maybe I lack a bit of distance! I admire cerebral filmmakers, who can visualise the organisation of everything. But I’m an intuitive filmmaker. I work like a primitive, in the moment. I need to knead the material, the talk to my actors, to jostle them around, to live something with them.

The score and the art direction of the film are particularly highlighted at the beginning of the end credits. Why?
What we wanted to do with Adoration, was a film that would return to the poetic realism of the 1930s and 1950s, when French cinema was producing great poetic realist films: Cocteau, Carné, Franju, Melville…

Today, this is a genre that has completely disappeared in France. Genre cinema today is always linked to American cinema, to the exploitation cinema of the 1970s. And we have forgotten that, in the 1950s, there was a thriving genre in France — poetic realism. Even at home, in Belgium, before the Dardenne brothers, there was André Delvaux. We wanted to make a film that gets rid of the American overtones of genre, and isn’t afraid to fall into poetry. To that end, we needed collaborators who go in that direction. There was a strong trio on the set between the mise en scène, the decors, and the cinematography.

I am obsessed with things that shine, with textures. I am sometimes shocked to see the cinema that our children watch. Maybe it’s me who’s becoming an old schmuck, but everything is smooth, everything is cold. I believe that decors have a soul. And that soul shows, in one way or another, on the film. All of this has to be orchestrated visually, and in the music. Especially since here, we were dealing with the sparks of love. Cinema is a profoundly sensual art, there is the beauty of the sets, of the emotions, of nature.

What are your upcoming projects?
I am shooting my new film, Inexorable, in the autumn. It will be characterised by a unity of time, space, and action. Everything takes place in the same house. It’s the story of a couple, an unsuccessful writer, and a woman who takes care of everything for him and is madly in love with him. One day, a 20-year-old woman, troubling and troubled, will do all she can to enter the house. The idea is to make a thriller, more cerebral, but which can only be a character study.

(Translated from French)

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