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Van Dormael, Auteuil to reunite on Fille de Dieu

Belgian director is currently in Paris with critically acclaimed, mixed media stage show Kiss and Cry, which he also hopes to adapt for the big screen.

Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael is preparing to shoot his first film in half a decade, a Brussels-set comedy, provisionally entitled Fille de Dieu and starring French actor Daniel Auteuil as God.

“The pitch is: God exists, he lives in Brussels, he’s horrible to his daughter, she gets revenge,” Van Dormael told ScreenDaily.

Van Dormael – best known for his Toto the Hero, The Eighth Day and his last film Mr. Nobody – plans to shoot in Belgium in spring to early summer 2014.

He is producing through his company Terra Incognita. Auteuil, who starred in The Eighth Day, will co-produce through his Paris-based Zack Films. 

“The idea is to work with the same team as Mr. Nobody – but in a reduced format so we’ll be 15 to 20 crew maximum — and to try to do something in an artisanal way, using natural light and real-life decors,” explained Van Dormael.  

It will be the director’s first feature since his ill-fated 2009, English-language fantasy sci-fi drama Mr. Nobody starring Jared Leto.

The €33m budget production was supposed to mark Van Dormael’s international break but it failed to ignite the critics or the box office globally.

“It’s actually my favourite film. My greatest success – because I don’t think I can to better than that - but also my greatest failure because it didn’t travel. The money was great because it helped me make the film but it also stopped it from travelling,” said Van Dormael.

The director spoke to ScreenDaily during the Paris Cinema film festival (June 28 - July 9), following a showcase of his early shorts including L’imitateur and E pericoloso sporgersi — precursors to The Eighth Day and Mr. Nobody - as part of a panorama of Belgian cinema.

Experimental

The filmmaker has not been idle in the intervening four years.  He is currently touring with the experimental stage show Kiss and Cry / Nanodanses in which the central characters are played by fingers, supported by a cast of Playmobil and train-set figurines.

Alongside that, he also recently worked on the script of Laurent Tirard’s Les Vacances du Petit Nicolas, a sequel to the French director’s adaptation of René Goscinny and Sempé’s classic Le Petit Nicolas which has just started shooting in a French beach resort. 

Talking about Kiss and Cry, Van Dormael explained: “It’s a feature film of 120 minutes which is constructed live before the audiences eyes, using miniature decors and objects in which the key characters are played by fingers…. It revolves around five love stories in which we only see hands, kicking off with an old woman recalling her first love, a young boy whose hand she touched on a train.”

The filmmaker and his crew construct and shoot the production on a miniature set on stage, which is then relayed onto a big screen above.

The show was devised collectively by Van Dormael, his wife and choreographer Michèle Anne De Mey, Gregory Grosjean, Thomas Gunzig, Julien Lambert, Sylvie Olivé and Nicolas Olivier.

Production designer Olivé won an Outstanding Technical Contribution award at Venice in 2009 for Mr. Nobody and most recently was nominated for a César for her work on Populaire.

“After Mr. Nobody I needed to take a break from film. We developed the production on our kitchen table, using our kids’ toys… the idea was that it had to fit onto the kitchen table. It took us four months from start to finish – we didn’t have a clue what we would end up with — but unlike with a film we didn’t worry about whether we had a buyer or the box office or the critics,” said Van Dormael.

Ironically, the show has enjoyed more of an international career than Mr. Nobody. To date, it has played some 130 times around the world including in Spain and Japan.  It is in the final days of a one-month run at the Théatre du Rond Point in Paris. After the summer break it will head to Finland and the United States where it will play in theatres in Boston and Pittsburgh.

“We have more than one team so people can interchange if they get work on a film, for example, and need to be on set for a period,” revealed Van Dormael. 

The filmmaker is mulling how to transfer to the show to the big screen.

“The work currently plays on two levels simultaneously – the stage and the screen. The challenge will be combining this aspect on the big screen,” he said. 

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