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LOCARNO 2022 Cineasti del presente

Bianca Lucas • Director of Love Dog

"I think everything you see is an extreme version of a person that exists in all of us"

by 

- In her first feature film, the Polish director tries to give a realistic insight into the grieving process

Bianca Lucas • Director of Love Dog

Love Dog [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Bianca Lucas
film profile
]
by Bianca Lucas premiered at this year's Locarno Film Festival in the Cineasti del presente section. We spoke to the director about the conditions of production, her intention to capture a particular atmosphere and the close connection she had with the community in which the film was shot.

Cineuropa: Why did you want to tell this story?
Bianca Lucas: More than telling a story, I wanted to capture a state of mind, a feeling, and an atmosphere. The story is only a vehicle to portray other elements. The kind of cinema I am most attracted to is not one with quote-on-quote stories. For me the strength of cinema is to create an experience, a sensorial experience, and that was my first goal with the film. I wanted to capture a feeling I was going through myself. I wanted to look closer at the process of grieving and give justice to it in a more realistic way. Moreover, there is a very particular atmosphere in this region of Mississippi we were traveling to at that time that I liked and wanted to show as well. I felt that a lot of things, the fantasies and the illusions about an unrealistic idea of success, were falling apart. I felt that there is a real feeling of grief among the American people.

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Did you have in mind to include the pandemic situation form the start?
Not at all. My cinematographer Józefina Gocman-Dicks arrived in the States in 2020 before everything started. A friend lent us a camera and we thought of shooting a documentary about this community in Mississippi. We met John Dicks who played the protagonist during this time. Then they closed the borders and the lockdown came, we were stuck in Mississippi and we went into lockdown together, Józefina, John and I. First we didn't know what to do, everyone was very scared about what would happen next. After two or three weeks, we started thinking about the film. This period coincided with a very difficult period in my life, which was not related to the pandemic, but I had a lot of feelings I wanted to exorcise. I put together a simple plot, inspired by John and the community. I don't consider the film a pandemic film, but we had to adapt to the situation and I didn't want to hide the particular circumstances either.

Could you tell us more about the place and the house you shot at?
Natchez is the town we filmed in. It's a strange place, a small and sleepy town, but appreciated for its historic architecture. It's the town in the US with the most preserved pre-Civil War architecture, visited by a lot of tourists. But during the pandemic, the AirBnBs were all empty and a friend connected us with the owner of this big house by the river. In a normal situation it would have been much too expensive to rent it. But the owner was very supportive, just as much as a lot of people there who became part of the film. Actually, John and the cinematographer Józefina fell in love during that time, got married and have a family now.

Did you script the entire dialogues or are there parts that are improvised?
There are many parts that are improvised. I created a situation, I knew what the setting was and the scenes, I wrote a few words and sentences and fed the actors with them. They were free as long as the aim of the scene was at the centre.

How did you work with the actors?
We worked with non-actors, all of them are friends. I wanted to have it as natural as possible. So, for example, when John talks to his friend, he is his real friend, and therefore I let them speak as freely as possible. We spent a lot of time together and shared a lot of stories, also outside of the film. It felt like we had one of these strange summer camp situations. We were all together, all the time. Sometimes we turned the camera on and sometimes off. But still, to be clear, this is fiction. John is playing a version of himself, a very dark one. And I think everything you see is an extreme version of a person that exists in all of us.

The colour grey is quite dominant. What were the most important aspects for your visual concept?
My cinematographer and I have known each other for a long time. She understood my visual language very quickly. She had a lot of references, I showed her many photographs and pictures that represent the way I see the world. Moreover, we had to adapt to the fact that we had nearly no budget, namely only $30,000, including post-production. We had very little technique. We shot only with natural lighting and always during magic hour. We shot in two phases two years apart because we also had to adjust to John's availability as he still had a job, despite the pandemic.   

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