Lukas Dhont • Director of Close
"I wanted to launch myself into film using body language"
- We met with the young Flemish director on the occasion of his film’s release in France and Belgium, having previously scooped the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes
We met with the young Flemish director Lukas Dhont, upon the release of his second feature film Close [+see also:
interview: Eden Dambrine
interview: Lukas Dhont
interview: Lukas Dhont
film profile] (after the brilliant and much remarked upon Girl [+see also:
interview: Lukas Dhont
film profile] released in 2018), which was presented in competition in Cannes where it won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize. The movie is due for release on 1 November in France (distributed by Diaphana) and on 2 November in Belgium (distributed by Lumière).
Cineuropa: This is your second feature film, and it’s a very personal project…
Lukas Dhont: The central theme of the film is friendship. It’s the story of two 13-year-old boys, Léo and Rémy, who have been best friends since day dot. One day, an unexpected event changes everything for them; it turns their lives upside down and calls their friendship into question. It is a very personal film, although I do think it’s a universal experience too; we’ve all had friendships which change over the years.
There are definitely echoes of Girl in Close, recurring themes, especially the violence involved in conforming to a certain norm, not being able to be oneself, being subjected to a certain vision of masculinity, and not being able to assert our fragility.
The film talks about something quite significant which we actually often ignore: the fact that once we reach a certain age, young boys are cut off from their emotions, tending to leave feelings to girls…
Yes, it’s an issue which is very close to my heart. There’s been research carried out in this area, I remember reading the work produced by an American psychologist, Niobe Way, who followed boys between 13 and 18 years old. What struck me was that she noticed that, at 13 years of age, the boys were still talking about their friendships and their experiences of love without any embarrassment. Their relationship with others was still very important to them, there was still a certain purity about them when it came to this relationship. But everything changed for them when they hit adolescence. Suddenly it was all about performing, they had to be cool. And being stoic, distant from their emotions, self-confident, was seen to be cool. I wanted to explore all that, the loss of this close relationship between two young boys.
What did you most want to convey with this story?
There were two things, I think. First, I wanted to create images showing real intimacy, real tenderness between two young boys. We live in a world where we see lots of images of men who have brutal relationships with one another, who seem disconnected from their fragility. I wanted to create moments of tenderness in a masculine world. To show two young boys in a bed, close to one another, complicit, seeing them running in a meadow full of flowers. And I also really wanted to make a film about friendship, about its beauty but also its fragility. And choosing two young boys allowed me to probe a society where tenderness between teenage boys or men is too quickly seen through the lens of sexuality. We’re always looking to compartmentalise things. And that curbs our momentum, and our friendships.
I also wanted to talk about brutality. How it can wipe out such fragile, tender things, both in the world but also inside of us; how we cut flowers, how colours disappear, inside of us.
The film says a lot, but in few words; it’s more about gestures, looks and silences.
I find it’s a really complicated thing, writing dialogue! We try just as hard to convey what the character wants to say as what the viewer needs to understand. As a teen, I was pretty good at mime! I copied others’ movements and behaviours. I get a lot of inspiration from dance and the work of choreographers and dancers, who manage to express their emotions through their bodies and their movements. I decided very quickly that this was the language I wanted to use to launch myself into film: body language. Before wanting to become a director, I wanted to be a dancer. I feel like I’m trying to make some of this dancing dream come true through my cinematic language. Expressing what I want to express, without words.
(Translated from French)
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