Benoît Mariage • Regista di Habib la grande aventure
"Ho voluto fare una commedia su un'anima in perenne lotta"
- Il regista belga parla delle origini e del "viaggio eroico" del protagonista del suo quinto film, nelle sale belghe questa settimana
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Having previously navigated social comedy (Les Convoyeurs attendent, Scouting for Zebras [+leggi anche:
scheda film]) and naturalism (The Missing Half), Benoît Mariage is now returning with Habib, la grande aventure [+leggi anche:
intervista: Benoît Mariage
scheda film], a poetic, modern-day tale, set against a backdrop of lost identity and a crisis of faith, about the emancipatory journey of a hero torn between his origins and aspirations. The film will be released in Belgium tomorrow, Wednesday 7 June, via Bardafeu Distribution.
Cineuropa: How did this project come about?
Benoît Mariage: As the result of a very real anecdote. I teach at IAD, and while I was filming in Namur, I met a young 15-year-old kid of Maghrebi origins. He asked me to lead a workshop in the working-class area where he lived, which I did every Wednesday for three months. I saw him quite a lot for a while and then he went off radar. Two or three years later, I went to see The Brand New Testament [+leggi anche:
intervista: Jaco van Dormael
scheda film] by Jaco van Dormael, and I saw him on the big screen, playing a gigolo in a scene with Catherine Deneuve. I called him to congratulate him, I asked him how his family felt about it all, and he told me that he hadn’t been completely honest with them and that he’d just explained that he was helping an elderly lady to go shopping!
What’s special about Habib is the fact that he’s torn between what he’d like to do, what he’s actually doing, and what his parents would like him to do. He’s experiencing a bit of a crisis of faith.
Yes, it’s an ongoing schizophrenic state for him. When we’re governed by different injunctions typical of the environments which shape us, family or professional; when, out of a lack of confidence, we try to comply with all these injunctions, we start to lose our minds. If Habib had asserted his identity from the outset, there wouldn’t have been a story to tell. He’s vulnerable, he’s a little ashamed of his origins, which leads to him overdoing it and to him being a real perfectionist. Even his kindness is proof of some sort of deficiency, a lack of self-esteem. I wanted to make a comedy about an eternally torn human being.
His "heroic journey" is an emancipation, which helps him understand his received identity so as to better rebuild his new identity. If we think about it carefully, it’s the story of a guy who ends up being able to say his own name, which is a pretty weak narrative basis, when you think about it (laughter). That was the challenge with this film: touching the audience’s hearts with someone who manages to say his own name. It’s actually a bit of a fable.
The other challenge is turning shame – a really brutal emotion – into something we can smile about.
Yes, especially since shame is such an incredibly common thing. We don’t know where it comes from, we often don’t even recognise it as shame. That’s what’s true to comedies, exploring serious topics with a smile.
Habib is searching for values he can identify with, and he finds answers in Saint Francis of Assisi, a character whom we now associate with asceticism and frugality.
He’s a figure who fascinates me, outside of all religious contexts. Asserting that happiness comes from stripping back. It’s also a view that’s in tune with the times; we no longer have many other alternatives. This character is really significant for Habib, and for me, too. I was also really moved by a book by Christian Bobin called Le Très bas, which is a revisited biography of Francis of Assisi. It’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, and my fascination, like Habib’s, mostly stems from that. For Habib, head-on emancipation is impossible vis-à-vis his father, so it happens through a text. It’s also a recognition of the power of literature.
How did you come up with Habib’s character?
I thought a lot about Buster Keaton, and John Turturro in Barton Fink too. A nigh-on neutral face. So that viewers could understand his impassiveness. Bastien Ughetto had a lunar side to him that I was looking for, although, to begin with, it was a bit of a problem that he didn’t come from the Maghrebi community. I did look, but when I saw Bastien the choice seemed obvious. But given that it’s a fable, and not a naturalist film in the slightest, I thought I could allow myself that option. I took that liberty, which was also a kind of mise en abîme of the film’s subject matter.
(Tradotto dal francese)
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