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Lukas Dhont Podcast & Transcript ? Podcast do Mubi Movies

I took it upon myself to have this short interview transcribed. I’ve manually cleaned it up a bit, but there may still be some mistakes.

Mubi:
A few years back, a friend of Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont recommended a book to him called Deep Secrets. [#CommissionEarned] It’s a study done by Niobe Way, who has dedicated her life to listening to boys, and she follows them for five years?150 of them. And at the age of 13, she asks them to talk about their male friendships, and what they say, Lukas found surprising.

Lukas Dhont:
Because these testimonies at that age are really testimonies of love. They dare to use the word “love” when they speak about each other. They say they would go crazy without one another. It’s totally not the narrative of Lord of the Flies . But then, yeah, we get used to that narrative of Lord of the Flies. That’s why we get served. That’s what people tell us. Boys are like, of course, we, we get told boys aren’t nurturers.

Mubi: They are more distant with their emotions and left to their own devices that they’d actually, you know, beat each other senseless.

Lukas Dhont:
Exactly. But when we listen to them at 13, that’s not at all what they tell us. But as she follows them up until 18 and asks them these questions again regularly, she sees how their answers start to shift, how they start to feel uncomfortable using that same vocabulary. How many of them start to become more performative or more cool? It’s not that they end their friendships, but they become different in them as if they understand that in this society, that that relationship that was once so tender, it’s apparently it’s needs to be more brutal.

Mubi:
Sure enough, Lucas Dhont’s latest movie, Fechar, agentle film about how brutal the world can be on boys’ friendships. It’s the story of a tween named Leo and his best pal Remi, A more sensitive soul. They live in the countryside, where they run around flower farms and leis and Remi’s bedroom. But when they start high school, a simple comment from a new classmate starts to undo everything. Are you two together? She asks.

Mubi:
I am Rico Galiano and welcome back to the Mubi podcast movies, the curated streaming service, the champions great cinema. On this show, we tell you the stories behind Great Cinema. Today we’re taking a mid-season break from our series about iconic movie music to bring you a special episode. It’s my interview with Lucas Dhont about Fechar the follow up to a celebrated debut, Garota. Fechar won the Grand Prix can and earned an Oscar nomination for best international film, ironically, competing against the war movie. All quiet on the Western front, which as Lucas told me right off the bat, is the kind of story the Fechar was a conscious reaction against. You’ll also hear us talk about how he got some unbelievable performances out of his young stars, how he writes without words, and the unlikely movie with which close shares a metaphor. Now, in heads up, this conversation contains spoilers and this film deals with self-harm and its aftermath. Please listen and watch with care. What was the kind of genesis of this story? What gave you the idea?

Lukas Dhont:
I think when I went back to writing after promoting and showing Garota around the world, I realized that we wanted to make a companion piece to that film. I think Girl was among many things a film about femininity, and I felt this desire to talk about masculinity, and I had this realization that I think we have been filming so many men fighting with each other, and so little men intimately being there for one another. That was this sort of core id from which it all started. And when we were thinking of it, we thought, why do we not show a young friendship between two boys and actually how gender expectations and pressures murder in a sort of way, that friendship…

Mubi:
Almost literally, I mean, one takes his own life.

Lukas Dhont:
Yeah. This, I mean, I consider this to be a very political film. I I mean, people often consider it to be very personal and intimate. I consider it to be very political because this film starts in a bunker, which is like a space we so often link to men. Yeah.

Mubi:
They’re like, they’re like playing inside what they say as a bunker.

Lukas Dhont:
Yeah. And they, and they, and they talk about soldiers and enemies and war, and that is the vocabulary they are handed so many times. And then they run into flower field, which is the exact opposite, the juxtaposition and a possibility, an opening. But we smother those flowers. We do,

Mubi:
I mean, it would be so easy to tell this story in a melodramatic way to keep it from being that What didn’t you want to do? Like what specifically did you want to avoid in telling this story?

Lukas Dhont:
That’s a very, it’s a very interesting question because it, it is of course, very subjective. What, what I find sensitive another person might not. So it’s, it’s about finding for yourself, I think a sort of way of talking about these very big moments of life, you know, life and deaths, something very tragic, but hopefully in an elegant way. And I think when, when, for example, when we touch on the team of violence, we don’t want to avoid the team, but we don’t want to create images that are violence. Hmm. That is already a rule that we set up when we start writing, is like, how do we talk about the impact rather than the action itself? And, and everything is shaped around that. Of course. Like there’s a lot of silence in this film, and I think, I mean, of course a lot of people are afraid of silence, but I think it offers you this spa Yeah. This place to fill in things yourself and not, not be dictated by the filmmakers what you have to think in every single moment or in every single silence. Yeah. There is room for you to exist in.

Mubi:
I’ve, I’ve often said that, you know, a movie is great when you’re watching a scene and you’re churning through all these complex ideas in your head of how the characters must be feeling and what it means to them and what it means to me as a viewer. Even though none of that is being said, it’s like almost nothing in my head is on the screen, and yet the screen is making me think these things. But I wanna know how you get to there. Like what was your process of weeding down dialogue until you got to that kind of pure space?

Lukas Dhont:
Well, I, I, I have to say that before, you know, filmmaking is not my first dream. It is, it is not. I didn’t want to be a filmmaker at first. I wanted to be a dancer. Huh. Yeah. And so when I was young I mean, my parents drove me around and, and I did r and b class and hiphop and, and modern and ballet. And I, I really thought for when in my young years, I really thought I wanted to be a dancer. And when I write films now, I think the dancer inside of me is very present. I think when, when I start writing, I really write choreographies. I write intentions of movement, I write ways of looking. I write music, sound, color, but I never write words.

Mubi:
So, I mean, if I were to have looked at a first draft of this with your, you and your co screenwriter, Angela Tysons, it, it might have been as bear and kind of spare as what was on screen.

Lukas Dhont:
Yeah. There’s not a single word to be found. It’s actually Angelo who reminds me of the fact that people actually talk in life . That people, that people actually say things. And I’m always like, do they have to say things? And he’s like, yeah, otherwise, I mean, otherwise this stays a dance performance. But if, if it would be up to me, I, I, I think these films would be very silent somehow

Mubi:
I don’t know if I envy Angelo at this moment. The guy who’s gotta like, make sure every word is just crystal perfect to get it past you. Exactly. That. Actually, this brings me to a, a question I was gonna ask later, but I’ll ask it now. There are two scenes that are entirely physical that I’d really love for you to talk about filming the two fight scenes mm-hmm. , where they’re literally physically grappling with each other. The two main characters, the two boys, they’re both totally different scenes mm-hmm. and they kind of track to me the changes in the characters? relationships. You wanna describe the first one in the bedroom to people who haven’t seen the movie yet?

Lukas Dhont:
Yeah. So they have this cocoon, which is the room of Remi. It’s a red room and it’s their space, their safe space. Like they are intimate, they, they lay in a bed as close as they possibly can together. The first 15 minutes of this film are we two boys together clinging the Walt Whitman poem, which was, is also been made into David Hockney painting. And it’s very much how I saw also our first 15 minutes. And then there is that moment where, through this question you already talked about, you know, are, are you a couple that in one of these boys, the conscious seeps in

Mubi:
Yeah. This classmate asking if they’re together as a couple. And Leo really doesn’t wanna be seen that way. It,

Lukas Dhont:
It, it’s only, it’s a very small moment, but it only takes that other way of looking for one to take distance from the other. And the scene that was one so peaceful, these two boys laying so close to one another turns into a fight. And so that first fight is for me, one of the most heartbreaking moments because even though it starts as a sort of game between them, the fear of the intimate seeps into that scene.

Mubi:
Now that, to me, that fight, the way that it’s structured, as you mentioned, it starts off playful and then ends hurtful. It is like a dance with all these complicated levels, kind of building to something sad and moving. Tell me about shooting that. How did you film that? How did it work?

Lukas Dhont:
Yeah, I think, I think when we shoot something like that, we very much work in volumes will be like we’re at volume two or we’re at volume six, which means a sort of intensity because you know that that scene indeed, like you say, needs to move from the playful and bit by bit the playful be seems to become harmful. And so we build up with volumes every time when it needs to be playful, we go two, then I say four or six, and then they add, I guess they add their emotion to it as we shootMubi:
It. Well, and speaking of personal emotion, there’s the second fight where Leo hasn’t met up with Remi before school, like he always does. So Remi starts a fight in the schoolyard where he’s, he’s both weeping and en rage. This is a very young actor. How spontaneous was that?

Lukas Dhont:
Yeah, well we rehearsed for over six months. What we never do in those six months is I never rehearse a concrete moment with them. So we’ll never do a scene. But what we will do is we spend time together, we go go-kart thing. I dunno if you know what a go-kart is. Is that the same word here? Yep, yep. While we’re having fun in there, I’ll be like, why do you think Leo would not wait for his friends before going to school? So I need them to make up their own answers because then I know if they will question each other, it will be authentic in the scene. Cuz they, they’re not copying something I told them.
Mubi:
So to an extent was that improvised, that fight scene?
Lukas Dhont:
I, I dunno if it, if I would call it improvised because they have read the script once in the very beginning. Never again though. So they remember a bit that scene and we have talked about it profoundly over these months, but then there’s an element added to it that really comes from them. I, and I can see it when I see the scene or when I saw the rushes. I see Eden who plays Leo, the, the, the boy who doesn’t wait for his friend. I see him think when he gets a question from Remi because he, he knows the answer and not fully, and it’s something we needed in that scene because he’s confused himself. He, he knows he didn’t wait for his friends, but at the same time, he doesn’t completely understand why himself mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , it’s like something bigger than him in many ways.

I would never have been able to direct that. I mean, I, or it would have become very copy paste of something I would’ve said. I love when the line between performing and being gets more fluid. I went to a film school that combined documentary and fiction and I think in my work with actors, I very much imply what I learned through documentary. That’s to say that there is this, these moments on set, especially in that second fight that you mentioned where there’s the things that are choreographed and the things that are framed and set up, but they can also move wherever they want to go. And I mean that emotionally, but I also mean that very physically, like the whole courtyard was their arena. They could move wherever. Mm-Hmm. , I wanted Frank, the cameraman, to follow their rhythm and not vice versa.

Mubi:
Yeah. I, I can’t remember who I spoke to, but another filmmaker, I think it was an actor who talked about this, that it’s like the best filmmakers almost create a world and then drop you as an actor into it. It’s like you create a vibe and a place for them to do their work. And if they make it kind of real enough, then the acting comes very naturally.

Lukas Dhont:
Yeah. And I have a couple of, like for example, when we shoot in a house, because there’s the House of Rammi, for example, the house is always completely dressed. It’s like the kitchen is dressed, there’s food in the cabinets, the whole living room is dressed the rooms. And we never place any lights inside the room where the actors are. So all of the lighting comes through windows or like set pieces. And what you actually create is that these actors feel like they’re really in a space. And, and I very much resonate with what you just said because I think giving that space to actors allows them to go further. I mean, I guess what excites me most when we’re shooting is the moments where there’s a freedom to their performance that I cannot control. I think it’s, it’s the moment where I really start to, that there’s life that starts to exist. I, when I say that, I immediately have to think of the Tree of Life, the movie. Yeah. I have to think of, of the, of the movie by Terrence Malik, the Tree of Life. Because I think those scenes with the kids, you know, running around, you know, that suburb, I mean that’s just so inspiring to me. Like the freedom of those moments, the, the performances of those kids, the aliveness of it is something I really strive to look for.

Mubi:
It’s a movie full of very subtle moments and I wonder if there’s something small and subtle that we might not notice at first that you’re really proud of that maybe listeners can look for when they’re watching it.

Lukas Dhont:
I, I’m very proud of the way we worked with Nature. I’m very proud of the, the, the passing of time in this film. But that’s of course something that an audience might notice. I was Remi , I’m gonna joke, but I’m very proud of the way we talked about Remi being an island and Remi also being a sort of mystery to us by using the metaphor of a door. Something that separates us from him. And actually, I was reminded by a friends, because my friends know how much Titanic means to me, the movie. Yeah, Titanic, the movie. Cuz my mom was obsessed when I was young with Titanic. And I always dreamed of having an impact on someone like Titanic had on my mother. And it was funny because my friend reminded me like, both of your films have an important door in there. Like there’s the, an important, there’s the importance of a door in both of your pieces.

Mubi:
Kind of like the door that , that Kate Winslet is floating on at the end.

Lukas Dhont:
Exactly. Like I, I I, I’m, I’m putting that out there because I want the parallels to be made.

Mubi:
I am happy to make that legend for you.

Lukas Dhont:
Thank you very much.

Mubi:
Lucas Dhont, winning my personal Oscar for least expected answer to a question, Fechar starts streaming on movie this week in the UK, Ireland, and many other countries. This is just a beautiful film and it leaves you with hope. Check the show notes for details and that is the movie podcast for this week. Thanks for listening. Be safe now. Go watch movies.

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