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Floor van der Meulen • Director of Pink Moon

“We no longer know if we should laugh or cry about it. But that’s life, isn’t it?”


- The Dutch filmmaker talks to us about her Tribeca-awarded film, which is now in competition at Les Arcs Film Festival

Floor van der Meulen • Director of Pink Moon
(© Esteban Granelli/Les Arcs Film Festival)

Dutch helmer Floor van der Meulen won a Special Mention at Tribeca with her feature-length fiction debut, Pink Moon [+see also:
film review
interview: Floor van der Meulen
film profile
. We met up with her at the 14th Les Arcs Film Festival, where her movie has been presented in competition.

Cineuropa: Where did the idea for Pink Moon, which was written by Bastiaan Kroeger, come from? What was it that drew you to this rather dramatic subject of a father determined to die, even though he is still in good health?
Floor van der Meulen: I wanted to make a film about a father-daughter relationship and about the fear of losing one’s father without really having had the time to get to know him. My own father belongs to that generation of dads who feel emotions but who don’t express them, and so there’s a sort of mystery there. From that starting point, I found Bastiaan, the screenwriter, who’d had the same kind of relationship with his father. We really drew our inspiration from the daily lives of our own families. I was heavily involved in the development of the script: we exchanged a lot of views, and we took part in several workshops together, such as the Script Station at the Berlinale. In addition, in the Netherlands, there was a big debate on the matter of assisted suicide, led by an ever-growing group of older people who were demanding the right to choose how they would die – and they weren’t ill, which makes it different from euthanasia. On a social level, I found this subject very interesting to transpose into a fiction film, with a sort of ticking time bomb around a father who is not dying, but who wants to die. As it’s about his life, how does one manage that as a family?

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The film concerns the whole family, but the character that is the driving force is Iris, the daughter. Why did you choose her?
It’s probably linked to my own frustration over never being able to fully understand other people, and not being able to get inside their head. The daughter’s point of view was there right from the origins of the project. When your father announces to you that he has had a full life and that he feels ready to die, it’s so abstract that it seemed natural to me to choose the angle of the young generation, who are enthusiastic and full of life, and who probably can’t fully understand the wishes of a 75-year-old. There’s a kind of generational clash in the Netherlands from that point of view.

It’s also a family portrait with a brother and a sister who react in very different ways.
I began casting very early on because I thought it was really important to invest plenty of time in creating a family that would be believable, and I needed the performers to be able to participate in the search for the right tone for the dialogue. The daughter is very emotional, dynamic and more private, whereas her brother is a lot more pragmatic, and very Dutch in his sense of organisation and planning for his father’s death.

How did you strike the right balance, treading the fairly fine line between the dramatic side of the subject matter and including a bit of levity, which sometimes verges on comedy?
In a way, when you’re confronted by death, it brings life to the fore along with it, or at least you become more aware of life. That paradox, that contrast, was very interesting to incorporate into the film itself. And I don’t know if it’s the same in other countries, but in the Netherlands, when people talk about death, they get very awkward. That’s something I wanted to explore and make use of for some “comical” interludes. Also, in a certain way, this levity sometimes makes the drama even stronger because with such contrasts, we no longer know if we should laugh or cry about it. But that’s life, isn’t it? That’s how I see it, in any case. What I really didn’t want was a movie that would be overbearing and shocking from beginning to end, because the subject matter is already gloomy enough, and we really needed some levity to bring the film to a conclusion.

What were your main intentions in terms of the mise-en-scène, especially when it came to the father’s house, which is quite extraordinary?
The dad who wants to die belongs to the baby-boomer generation, who fought for their freedom and their rights with a very determined mindset. I figured that that tied in very well with the way that architects think, so we created this "backstory" of a father who used to be an architect, and we looked for the type of house that an architect would live in. We found this Mondrian house, and because I knew that the final scene would be one, long take, we needed a setting where we would be able to almost create a kind of choreography with the camera, passing through several rooms. In a sense, this house symbolises Jan’s mind. All of the décor was chosen according to the personalities of the family members, and the mise-en-scène was built up based on contrasts. In this way, when the daughter kidnaps her dad and takes him to the mountain, nature is in contrast with urban life: the mountain makes you feel small, and the isolation and the snow create a sort of vacuum where the father and daughter are truly alone.

What is your next project going to be?
I’m working once again with the same production company (KeplerFilm) and the same screenwriter. We are developing a story on the subject of burn-outs because while they affect lots of very ambitious thirtysomethings, more and more older people are also suffering from them – particularly grandmothers who are taken advantage of by their children and asked to be baby-sitters or to help out.

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(Translated from French)

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