Toye returns to cinema with Nowhere Man’s everyman
by Natasha Senjanovic
Patrice Toye is back on the big screen after a 10-year absence, with her second feature, the dryly witty Nowhere Man. The film stars Frank Vercruyssen (who also worked with the director in her 1998 film Rosie) as Tomas, a man with a seemingly wonderful life – and even more wonderful wife, Sara (Sara De Roo) – who fakes his own death in order to disappear to an African island. Not quite the paradise he imagined from a postcard, he encounters racism, violence, hard labour and, most of all, loneliness.
Five years later he returns home, broken and penniless, and immediately seeks out Sara, who has since remarried. After her initial shock, she turns the tables on him in a desire for emotional revenge as they both come to grips with the fact that there is no turning back for either of them.
Well received by the public today at Venice Days, Toye initially began the script with co-writer Bjorn Olaf Johannessen (Mirush [+see also:
film profile]), from his story. After winning the NHK Award at the Sundance screenwriting lab for Best European Screenplay from Europe, Wim Wenders stepped in and backed the project.
The film marks a change in style and sensibility for the director, who told viewers at the post-screening Q&A that after such a long break from cinema she felt the need “to take a risk…to create something new that broke with stereotypes.” For that reason, she adds, “the film is very fragile and was not at all easy to make.”
Nowhere Man relies heavily on metaphors and symbols, many of which reflect Johannessen’s approach to cinema, and are, according to the filmmaker, “a fundamental aspect to the relationship we wanted to create with audiences.” To Toye, the film speaks less of escape or abandonment than how, ultimately, we can never run away from ourselves. Yet like the Beatles song of the same name, Tomas is an everyman, “a bit like you and me” in his longing to disappear and start anew, however impossible that dream may be.
De Roo – primarily a theatre actress whose only film experience has been with Toye –was immediately drawn to the story because “it is rare in film to see a man totally at the mercy of a woman who captures and controls his life.” She further enjoyed the film because Toye gave her and her co-star, with whom she has a theatre company in Belgium, the freedom to work on set as they normally do – without any rehearsals, apart from a minimum of technical direction.
Nowhere Man is a majority production by Belgium’s La Parti Production, made for €2m in co-production with Belgian companies Roma Films (co-headed by Toye) and Savage Film, Norway’s Friland, Dutch producers Circe Films and Tarantula of Luxemburg.
It will be released domestically by Kinepolis at the end of November and is being handled by Funny Balloons, who are currently in negotiations with a number of territories.
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