Pieter Van Hees • Director
by Aurore Engelen
16/06/2009 - Young Flemish director Pieter Van Hees will be at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival to present Dirty Mind [trailer], the second instalment in a trilogy about love and suffering. The third instalment, The Waste Land, is currently in development.
Cineuropa: Dirty Mind has been selected at the Karlovy Vary Festival. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a resurgence of young Flemish cinema at international festivals.
Pieter Van Hees: Flemish cinema has long been present on the major festival circuit, with films by Dominique Derrudere, Marc Didden and Frank Van Passel (who won the Camera d’Or) making an appearance. Today, a new generation is emerging on the international scene. We know each other and are often friends. We each have our own vision, but it’s true that certain common themes run through our respective filmographies. There are quite a lot of rather sad love stories.
Above all, however, I think we have a shared sense of urgency. For us, making films isn’t just a job, but a question of life or death. It’s no easy task making films here; we’re often confronted with financial difficulties, but at the end of the day, the aim is to express raw emotions on the big screen. Moreover, I think that my generation is very much influenced by Flemish theatre. As a result, we approach the actor’s performance in a rather different way, in search of a certain emotional truth, but without necessarily undertaking long periods of pre-shoot research.
Do you feel any affinity with Belgian Francophone directors?
I think distinctions are made in Belgium, but abroad, all our films come under the category of Belgian cinema. Dirty Mind, Moscow, Belgium [trailer] and Eldorado [trailer] merely represent different facets of the same industry. We have a certain admiration for the Walloon film industry, which seems to defend the interests of auteurs in a more systematic way. I can identify with the themes and characterisation in Bouli Lanners and Joachim Lafosse’s work.
You’re considered a director of genre films: what’s your position on this?
I don’t intend to make genre films. The characters are at the heart of my desire to make films. So when I’m talking about a young woman trapped by anxiety, my film starts to resemble a thriller, and when I’m talking about a man with a split personality, I lean more towards comedy. But in the end, all films are genre films. An auteur film is a genre.
In my eyes, the character pre-exists and determines the stylistic direction of the narrative. What’s most interesting is playing with this notion of genre in order to surprise or fulfil audiences’ expectations. Above all, I’m inspired by lives and characters, those of The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, Apocalypse Now… And even Diego Maradona: a guy full of talent, a football genius who captivated the imagination of thousands of people, and also happens to be a violent man destroyed by drugs.
Dirty Mind is the second instalment in a trilogy about love and suffering. What stage are you at with the third instalment?
I received a screenwriting grant in January, and I’ve just completed the script. The film will be produced by Koen Mortier and Eurydice Gysel’s company Epidemic. Left Bank [trailer] was about the love of a young 22-year-old girl and Dirty Mind was a love story between 30-something adults. The Waste Land will look at the end of love, focusing on a policeman whose relationship is in crisis and who lives in a city in crisis. The story is loosely based on T.S. Eliot’s poem, which is set in London after the First World War. I wanted to transpose the action to Brussels, and film this city, which is all too rarely captured on the big screen, in all its cultural and linguistic diversity.