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Belgium / France

Véro Cratzborn • Director of Into Dad’s Woods

"We worked hard on his unravelling, his descent from the fanciful to the strange, and then into madness"


- We met with Belgian director Véro Cratzborn whose first feature film Into Dad’s Woods is being released in France and Belgium in these early weeks of July

Véro Cratzborn  • Director of Into Dad’s Woods

Cineuropa sat down with Belgian filmmaker Véro Cratzborn, whose first full-length movie Into Dad’s Woods [+see also:
film review
interview: Véro Cratzborn
film profile
- a sensitive and remarkable portrait of a teenage girl who becomes increasingly aware of her father’s illness and slowly leaves childhood behind - is set to be released in France and Belgium over the next couple of weeks.

Cineuropa: We’re told the tale through Gina’s eyes. Who is she?
Véro Cratzborn: We meet Gina within the family unit, but very quickly this character breaks away and sets herself free. I develop my characters with lots of pictorial references in mind, notably those of Nan Golding. I was inspired by photos, gestures, impressions and qualities of movement. For me, Gina represented a certain distance achieved by way of a look, and a body that’s firmly anchored into the ground.

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We worked in a lab with the actors. I met Léonie Souchaud two years before we started filming and we were able to work regularly with her during a games lab, with a movement coach.

I also work a lot with colours. For Carole, for example, Ludivine Sagnier’s character, we used primary colours, whereas Jimmy and Gina’s colours were quite similar, with links to the woods. My association of ideas might seem strange, but it helps me create universes and characters.

Gina’s in full transition in the film; she’s leaving childhood behind and discovering herself as a woman.
Gina’s in a state of resistance. You could liken her to Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone; she’s resisting the loss of her bearings, of her world, but, at the same time, the end is left very open. I also loved working in the here and now of the film, allowing myself to be inspired by my collaborators and by the random things that happen while filming. We got lost in the woods, for example!

On that subject, let’s talk about the role played by the woods…
The first thing I see when I think of the woods is the canopy, the sea of trees, the view that unfolds. In the woods, there are no straight paths, and the same can be said of how we think about the norm. Nature resists us, but it’s also fragile, like Jimmy, the father. Of course, there’s also something fairy-tale-esque about it, being set on the edge of the woods. A forest has many faces. It’s a reassuring place, a refuge, but it can also start to feel eery. We wanted a magical forest, moreover, and we shot day-for-night. The woods only become real again right at the very end.

We had quite a few restrictions owing to our budget, but also because we were filming with children. Godard said that in film, we don’t do what we want, we make do with what we’ve got, but these constraints can result in great creativity. We asked ourselves how we would film the night-time, and day for night seemed a really good fit for the story, especially with its distance from reality.

Can you say a few words about Jimmy’s character and his trajectory?
This film explores psychological disturbances without being a documentary. It sits on the side of phenomenology, of experience; a teenager’s experience, in fact, because Jimmy’s character is seen through Gina’s eyes. He’s larger than life, and we worked hard on his unravelling, his descent from the fanciful to the strange, and then into madness. It’s all about the dissolution of the body, and working on gestures and movements was crucial. I couldn’t get on with representations of what we call madness in film. We were looking for something else in the way of sensory perceptions. That strangeness is all part of losing one’s bearings; to begin with, Jimmy is funny, we think what he says makes sense. There’s an incredible organicity to Alban’s work.

But it’s also a film which talks about the forgotten children of the mentally ill. Delirium isn’t only an expression of madness, it’s also a form of resistance to society. Jimmy’s episodes also protect him, even if he does go too far.

How did you go about choosing your actors?
I’m a big fan of films focused on the body, highly choreographed films such as those by John Woo; combat scenes. Alban Lenoir, who plays Jimmy, has very impressive body control. I showed him a photo of Gena Rowlands where she cries from one eye, and he did it! He really surprised me. As for Ludivine Sagnier, I met her at the request of the CNC. And lastly, we cast Léonie Souchaud two years before we started filming. What moved me about her was her sense of restraint, her measure. And a closeness to nature which bordered on my own!

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(Translated from French)

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