Just got in today the English press notes for Vinyan. Selected parts from it are below. I’m not sure who does the two interviews below or else I’d properly credit them. There is some lost in translation moments in this from whomever ported it over from French.
Select Press Notes
Unable to accept the loss of their son in the 2005 Tsunami Jeanne and Paul Belhmer have remained in Phuket (Thailand). Desperately clinging to the fact that his body was never recovered, Jeanne has convinced herself that the boy was kidnapped by traffickers in the chaos that followed the catastrophe… that her son is still alive. Paul is sceptical, but cannot bring himself to shatter his wifeâ€™s last hope.
Bribing the sinister Mr Gao to take them by boat to the pirate-infested jungles of the Thai/Burmese border, the traumatized couple embark on a quest that will plunge them through paranoia and betrayal, ever deeper into an alien universe, a supernatural realm where the dead are never truly dead, and where nightmares, obsession and horrifying reality converge…
FABRICE DU WELZ
Born October 21, 1972, Fabrice du Welz gorged himself on horror movies before studying dramatic arts in Liege and directing at INSAS. He wrote gags for Canal+ (LA GRANDE FAMILLE, >NULLE PART AILLEURS and others) while working on his own short films with a crew of regulars that included cinematographer Benoit Debie. Du Welz followed his short QUAND ON EST AMOUREUX C’EST MERVEILLEUX (Grand Prix de Gerardmer 2001), with his first full-length CALVAIRE, which screened in Critics Week at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. VINYAN is his second feature film.
INTERVIEW WITH FABRICE DU WELZ
First, there was the desire for an adventure. And an obsessive idea: children who kill. When the Tsunami hit, I got the idea of setting my story in this post-apocalyptic climate. The point of departure was concrete; a devastated landscape and a western couple who had lost their child in the Tsunami. These elements allowed me to set off in search of a lost child – the sole child – in order to go in search of a multitude of others – the many – in the jungle.
VINYAN enabled me to realize the type of film I always dreamed of making as an adolescent. VINYAN is a fantasy of cinema, a transgressive experiment that owes a great debt to my love of the great paranoid cinema of the 70s.
VINYAN isn’t a traditional ghost movie, with the dead entering the world of the living. Here, itâ€™s the living who intrude into the world of the dead. The idea was to immerse a western couple who blindly refuse to accept the death of their child in a part of the world where death is a continuation of life. As I see it, a society that denies aging and death so obstinately is a society going very wrong. The Belhmers embody this.
VINYAN is clearly a Thai film. In the same way that CALVAIRE was a Belgian movie. The film plunges us into a rainy, dirty, grey Thailand, a million miles away from the tropical paradise picture postcard clicheÌs of a film like THE BEACH. There was also the notion that the settings should accompany step by step the coupleâ€™s mental deterioration. To this end, we paid a very particular attention to the choice of locations and the look of the filmâ€™s settings.
Michael Gentile suggested her during our unsuccessful search for an English actress. At the time, I thought it was a false lead, but she showed a real interest in the script. We met and her motivation revealed itself clearly. During the shoot, Emmanuelle gave me everything. She was there at every take, and our collaboration was very constructive. Her performance is physical, exceptional… people may well be surprised. And she and Rufus together make a very believable couple.
Benoit Debie (the DP) and I think about things very visually. For VINYAN we begin our journey with the real; the flashing electric light of the Bangkok night and slide slowly towards expressionism, and the muted colors of an ever more hostile jungle. At this stage in our collaboration, Benoit and I love nothing more than experimenting, and this constant investigation enriches our creative collaboration tenfold.
I’ve been working for a long time with the same cinematographer, the same script, the same sound mixer… they’re indispensable. I have their trust and they’ve got mine. We all have the same demands and we all look in the same direction.
INTERVIEW WITH EMMANUELLE BEART
First, we have to go back to my discovery of CALVAIRE, which I saw in Cannes and which really struck me. There was the cruelty of lack, the loss of everything: physical, mental, sexual. The film expressed this loss in an almost unbearable way. Leaving the screening, I wanted to meet the director. A long time later, the script of VINYAN turned up. In a rather chaotic fashion. Fabrice hadn’t yet found anyone for the role, he couldnâ€™t decide between taking a French or an English actress. I saw in the script some of what I had seen in CALVAIRE. But with such a subject, you canâ€™t work with just anyone. With Fabrice, thereâ€™s a sort of madness, like an overdose and at the same time, a great reserve.
At our first meeting, I felt a bit uneasy. Right away, he said to me: “My DP wants to know whether you would agree to work without make-up.” A funny way of getting into the subject. I told him that he must not have seen my films, but that it was no big deal: his subject interested me, I was ready.
I refused to second-guess the idea of mourning or the stereotypes one might have of mourning for a child. I refused to know how to treat that. I think it would have been a horrifying indecency. I tried as much as possible to confront myself with nature, with the difficulty of the terrain. I walked, I found myself in the middle of hailstorms, in boats surrounded by thick smoke in the middle of the night. I let myself subside into the exhaustion of this hostile nature.
What’s most important of all on a shoot like this one is to be in good health, in order to be able to continue to give, to be there. Some of the crew wasnâ€™t always capable of this. Me included. Every day, above all at the beginning, we asked ourselves whether we were going to make it through.
He plays my husband, Paul. We had shared an absolute solidarity. At the beginning, we shared the same capacity, not for mourning, but for living with absence. During this whole period, I donâ€™t remember having acted much. I slipped into scenes, into situations, always tied to him, like people clinging to one another. Later, we moved apart, because our characters moved apart.
SHOOTING IN ENGLISH
It was very different from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE or Manuel Pradal’s UN CRIME on which I worked very hard to imitate a language that isn’t my own. This time, I didnâ€™t want to speak ‘proper’ English. My character Jeanne is French. She met an Englishman, she lived there, and like most French people, she never lost her accent. There aren’t a lot of words to say, but I didn’t want them to get away from me. I almost wanted to think them in French and speak them in English, something very different to what I did on those other movies. If I’d tried to imitate the rhythm of another language, I would have been afraid of losing the memory, and thus my language. That which I say, comes from me.
Itâ€™s impossible to separate Fabrice’s work from Benoit’s. They make the film together, with a strongly asserted visual bias that sometimes gives the feeling of escaping from the frame. They create something imaginary, a universe, an abstract dimension that eludes me, which is both beautiful and frustrating. This allowed us for a time to be not entirely conscious of what we were doing. That gave us a great freedom. But sometimes, it bothered me. I felt the need to break through this visual obsession, to force Fabrice to approach me, as if I had a secret to tell him. It created 3 seconds of conflict, when I asked for a close up. I wanted to lead the camera towards me while I have a tendency to flee it.
I had already been there, but I still don’t know what to think about it. It’s a valuable lesson in travel. To enter into the world of other, it canâ€™t be worked out in advance. You can only make the effort not to claim to understand immediately; to wait, to watch, to try. I’m not sure that I have yet understood. There are countries more familiar to me. More direct.
I had trouble catching the codes of behavior. It’s very important for the story, the misunderstandings if these characters who encounter each other and come together without really understanding each other. Yes can mean no, a smile can mean a refusal, merely politeness.