Lucas Belvaux • Director
"Fiction allows you to get up close and personal with your characters"
by Aurore Engelen
- With This is Our Land, Luvas Belvaux brings us a film with a highly contemporary story starring Emilie Dequenne and André Dussollier.
Lucas Belvaux, a Belgian filmmaker born in Namur, rose to fame with his ambitious trilogy (An Amazing Couple [+see also:
film profile], On The Run [+see also:
film profile], After Life [+see also:
film profile]). His films are often grounded in a strong sociological context, and question the underlying currents of society. With This is Our Land [+see also:
interview: Lucas Belvaux
film profile], he goes a step further, bringing us a film of scorching political topicality on the mechanisms of seduction used by populist parties, seen through the eyes of a young nurse who supports them almost unwittingly.
Cineuropa: Why this film?
Lucas Belvaux: When I shot Not My Type [+see also:
interview: Lucas Belvaux
film profile] with Emilie Dequenne in Arras, it was the height of electoral season, and all the polls put the FN on 30% or 40%. As I filmed this rather pleasant, intelligent, strong-willed and optimistic character, I found myself wondering after a while who she’d vote for. So I decided to make a film with a similar character, a sort of cousin to Jennifer.
What’s the link with Jérôme Leroy’s book, Le Bloc?
I took certain characters from it, mainly Agnès Dorgelle (editor’s note: played by Catherine Jacob as a clone of Marine Le Pen), and Stanko (editor’s note a skinhead militant). The book served above all as a sort of set of instructions on how to tackle the story through fiction. I also co-wrote the screenplay with Jérôme Leroy.
The character of Agnès Dorgelle ends up being a rather peripheral character, even though it’s around her that all the characters unite.
I wasn’t that interested in the components of the party itself, they’re already television personalities. What I was interested in was their strategy, the marketing methods they use to seduce the public. I wanted to put together as accurate a snapshot as possibile, and explore the topic of the voters and their motivations.
The two most unsettling characters have the most seductive faces: the gullible Pauline and respectable Berthier, do they not?
The French far right claims that it loves the French people, whilst applying an ideology that has over time become completely obsolete. These people don’t love France as it has been for the last 250 years. And then there’s the new National Front, made up of neo-militants with rather limited historical awareness who soak up everything you tell them. With a slightly adapted discourse, they’re easily seduced, and their anger and desire to get involved and even change the world easily harnessed. You could almost say that there’s a sense of idealism in some of the characters like Pauline, and a sense of anger and resentment in others, like her friend Nathalie. Of course, here I’m not referring to the side of it all that’s really not funny, the racism and antisemitism that’s recycled endlessly. It offers a solution, it’s a sort of heaven-sent party, but one which follows an extremely contradictory programme, as a populist party must appeal to as many people as possible, so to people with different views.
The film is very firmly rooted in the region the events take place in and in the historical context, is it not?
Portraying a specific local area is about portraying the people who live there. Geography is important, above all in this region. It’s an area that’s constantly rebuilding and reinventing itself. It’s even harder today, as we can only reinvent society whilst taking the rest of the world into account. It’s complicated, it’s not with old programmes from 150 years ago that we’ll manage to resolve the problems of modern society.
The film’s story is very contemporary, how did you develop this synchronicity between the film and current affairs?
By moving quickly. We had to write quickly, shoot quickly, and get the film out there quickly. We had to work quickly to get things done in keeping with electoral deadlines. We had to get the film out there whilst the presidential campaign was ongoing, to fuel the debate and give a bit of a different perspective which takes its time, a deeper reflection, also because fiction allows you to get up close and personal with your characters. I wanted to move away from quick-fire forms of communication, as they are used by populists above all.
(Translated from French)
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