Guest star of the 63rd Ciné-Rencontres de Prades festival from July 15 to 23, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgian filmmaker who won two Palmes d’or at Cannes with his brother Luc, will meet the public on Saturday July 16 when nine of his films are scheduled at Le Lido cinema. In a long interview, he talks about his career, his way of filming everyday life and the situation of cinema after the health crisis.
L’Indépendant: After Cannes, here you are at the Prades festival. What atmosphere do you prefer?
Jean-Pierre Dardenne: We cannot compare. In Cannes we are in another world, it’s a big turbine that turns the cinema, a global showcase for 15 days. In Prades, it’s a festival that is geared towards meeting an audience, filmmakers, young and old, first films. There is a spirit of closeness here that there is not in Cannes. The existence of a festival like that of Prades is a sign of the vitality of cinema in France. This country is an exception and an example, the pilot fish of cinema in Europe.
All your films were shot in Belgium near Liège, why this attachment to your region of origin?
We were as called by this city of Serain that we knew so alive. We wanted, by making documentaries and then fiction, to keep part of the memory of this region, through meeting people. This city saw us become adults, we discovered life there. All our works allow this city to live. There is a bit of our history embedded in these films. We try to make cinema that looks the world in the eye.
Rosetta for example was someone new to our post-industrial world. Lorna too. She was ready to do anything to have her place in the sun. We try to tell stories with characters, not just to draw up observations. Tell how they try to get out of their loneliness, to meet someone else.
You revealed several actors like Emilie Dequenne, Jérémie Rénier or Olivier Gourmet. How do you choose the performers for your films?
Our characters are often young men or women. There are no confirmed actors of this age. It’s up to us to find the one who can carry the character. The rest is a lot of work. The film is rehearsed for 4 to 5 weeks before shooting. This makes it possible to control the chronology of the film, to refine the sets. It is during these rehearsals that we find the form of the film. It is a base for filming.
For the actors, this allows the defenses to drop. For us too. Very physical rehearsals. The movements are studied, the gestures make it possible to give life. The rhythm of a scene depends essentially on the gestures. It seems that you only become a filmmaker when you find your working method. We, like cows, need to ruminate a lot. That’s why it takes more than two years to make a film.
Do you hope to win a 3rd prize at Cannes?
I can’t help but think that a 3rd prize would also be the symbol that the Cannes Film Festival turns on itself. May it not renew itself again. But we still have the spirit of competition. Having more recognition can only be beneficial. Being selected is good, having a prize is even better.
Saturday you will face your audience during a meeting. Do you enjoy these moments?
I prefer this kind of meeting to the promotion of a film which will be released. I like to listen to people, to have their feelings, it’s very interesting to hear. Because an encounter with a work is an individual adventure.
The cinema is in full crisis after the covid and the arrival of streaming platforms. Do you remain confident for the future of this form of artistic expression?
Cinema is a wonderful invention that inscribes a movement in time. Maybe it will evolve into a slightly different form. But humans have always liked to get together to listen to stories. This was done before the cinema and it will probably still be done in the future. What is needed above all is to preserve the theatrical release of films. The chronology of the media is undoubtedly to be reviewed while favoring the theatrical release. But we must not satanize the platforms. You have to discuss, establish a balance of power and be careful.
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Jean-Pierre Dardenne at the Ciné-Rencontres de Prades: “We try to make a cinema that looks at the world deep in the eyes”