Lucas Belvaux • Director
by Anne Feuillere
03/11/2005 - The Belgian director, whose trilogy (An Amazing Couple [trailer], On the run [trailer], After life [trailer]) was a sensation in 2002, has just finished his latest feature film. The Weakest is always right [trailer] a title that he defines as film noir. It tells the story of four friends who, tired of daily routine, decide to go for the money wherever it is, and commit a robbery at gun point. While Lucas Belvaux is working on the final cut, Cineuropa meet him at the Namur International Francophone Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Does working with only one film become annoying?
Lucas Belvaux: No, no (laughs). What does change is that with three films there was a team three times as important. We have more fun when we all sit together at the table!
What drove you to the making of The Weakest is always right?
What inspired the story was different than what inspired the film, which greatly distances itself from the story. I wanted to film something dramatic and visual, one of the characters throws bank notes from the top of a building. And this aspect, interested me very much. I also took interest in the place where it happened, that’s why I filmed it in a very beautiful business quarter of Liege. But, I created the characters using many bits and pieces. It’s different in what concerns organised crime, since it’s a group of amateurs that fail in their jobs. There are no dirty types in these film, they are rather amusing types.
Your work as a filmmaker is based a lot on film genres.
Yes, it has all the characteristics of a film noir, in the purest sense of the term. The restrains of a story and the fact that you have to keep everything among the same line please me. This also renders a sort of atmosphere, an almost know territory. There is also the pleasure in playing with the significance and the spectators, anouncing to them what’s coming next. But once they enter the room you can lead them to wherever you like. There is a small detective film part, with a hold-up included. There is also a more social part, going towards politics. It is a more social film than Cavale, but since the characters are different, they explain themselves differently. It is not the same type of violence, it is not at all put forward. Après la vie might also be regarded as a film noir, but The Weakest is always right is not so intimate, the camera is not so close to us. Besides, there are five characters. I film a group of people.
It seems that you give a lot of importance to the editing!
I consider my work to be as important in editing as in writing or mixing. It’s all about a succession of phases in my work, in order to make a film from beginning to end, you must be present at all times. All of this without even mentioning that the setting up consists on choosing all the different takes, and that one take can greatly differ from the other. It would never occur to me to be absent in during the time where you decide who is going to talk or listen in the setting-up. If you set up who listens before hand, you might transmit a completely different feeling. It is during the setting-up where you decide what the film is going to be.
How did you go from being an actor to being a director?
It was a longing of mine. Once I had interpreted roles in films, I felt the need to direct and write. I needed time to mature, to learn from the sets in which I worked. It is to an actor’s best interest to learn how to make films. In a set you have time to see how things take place. You can be observant and keep acting well. You have to notice where the light and the marks are. If you have a very good actor who doesn’t stay within the right place, his image will turn out dark and blurry.
In regards to the filmmakers that you worked with, Chabrol’s style seems to appear the most in your work.
This aspect is a must. He is a filmmaker whom I really like. Without any doubt, I have learned a lot from him. Yes, it’s true that his work in the 60’s and 70’s made a great impression on me. Pour rire or Après la vie are the films closest to Chabrol’s style that I have made. I also try to bring together the same type of teams than him, those where the mambers were happy and worked at ease. At least, that’s one thing that I did learn from him; you work better at ease that under pressure, although I have yet to achieve his mastery. At the time ofAprès la vie, I thought a lot about Juste avant la Nuit, with Michel Bouquet, a remarkable and absolutely sublime film. I really enjoy this type of film. But I think that the director to whom I must give the most credit is Alain Bergala. He’s got two passions: cinema and pedagogy. He works with clear visions, explaining everything. It was with him that I learned how to explain what I’m doing. I don’t know if I would have felt that longing to make cinema if I would not have meet him.
You can be seen right at the beginning of Merry Christmas because you act in your own film. You even act regularly in other productions.
Yes, but not necessarily to my taste. It’s nice to be an actor, and it’s less fatiguing to act in someone else’s film than your own!