By Dan Stewart

flandres-bruno-dumont.jpgFlandres, 2006

Director Bruno Dumont in conversation about his upcoming film Flandres

Dan Stewart
: What is Flandres about?

Bruno Dumont: It’s the story of a character who takes an hour and a half to say ‘I love you’. It’s an organic explanation of feeling, and the way feeling blossoms. It’s a simple love story, and a war story at the same time. It’s a reconciliation of the two.

DS: It is a war film in the same way 29 Palms is a love story and L’Humanite a detective story. Are you influenced by genre?

BD: I try to subvert genre. The spectator needs to be surprised before he can sink into a state of mediation. It needs to be subtle, but surprising. Known and yet unknown.

DS: Was it inspired by Iraq?

BD: It is inspired by the current war, but as well as being a real war it is symbolic. This war is kept quite abstract to let the spectator be introspective. I am using the contemporary war, because you can’t film an interior war. All my films are about war in some way.

DS: Some of the battle scenes are reminiscent of Full Metal Jacket. Was this intentional?

BD: All the cineastes give images to each other. The same with Kubrick, these images are my images. But this film is against Kubrick. It’s against the idea of war as opera, as an ideal choreographed war. This is sadistic. I am putting war in its place.

DS: Did you meet with soldiers before making the film?

BD: No. I didn’t want reality, I wanted the opposite. Because it’s a symbolic war, I need something that is fake. There is so much documentation about the war, if I followed that route people would think it was like a documentary. I need it to be realistic, but not real.

flandres-bruno-dumont-2.jpgFlandres, 2006

DS: Do you consider yourself to be within a realist tradition?

BD: No. I think the realist tradition is more like Ken Loach. Cinema which is political, or sociopolitical. My cinema is more expressionist, philosophical, symbolist. The problem is because I work with the appearance of realism, people think that it’s realist, but it’s not.

DS: What are your main inspirations?

BD: I have been inspired by Greek and German philosophy. Philosophers who write on the representation of the truth. I love Shakespeare, because of this. My two main influences are Shakespeare and Bach.

DS: And in film?

BD: I consider myself a student of the past. Robert Bresson, Rossellini, Bergman… these are the people who have most impressed me. These are artists of the cinema. You can’t talk about art and cinema nowadays.

 flandres-bruno-dumont-3.jpgFlandres, 2006

DS: A lot of people hate your films. Why do you think that is?

BD: People are really affected by my films, but afterwards. A few days later they can say it is a masterpiece or they hate it. I would prefer people to hate my films than to come away feeling nothing. At least hate is a strong emotion.

DS: What are the odds of you making a comedy?

BD: I would love to make a comedy. I love Shakespeare, and he is the greatest comedy writer of all time. So, yes, I would make a comedy but I am not ready yet.

DS: What do you love about cinema?

BD: For me it is the moment of grace, the moment of perfection that you’re always striving for. I almost had it here, in Flandres, the scene where Barb is walking through the snow and she crosses a gate. That shot was as close to perfect as I could get. But it’s impossible.

Dan Stewart is a freelance writer specialising in film.