Fien Troch's new feature Unspoken, starring French actors Emmanuelle Devos and Bruno Todeschini, screened at Toronto and is now heading to San Sebastian. This may provide a logistical challenge for the young Belgian writer-director who - like Lars von Trier - has a fear of flying.
Unspoken, which is being sold internationally by The Works, was conceived even before Troch's debut feature Someone Else's Happiness had started shooting.
"I wanted to avoid that situation where after a year of travelling (to festivals), you have a blank hole and have to start writing," she says.
Much is expected of Troch, a young auteur who has already received recognition outside Flanders. She has spent a stint at Cannes' Residences Du Festival and Someone Else's Happiness screened at festivals all over the world. Unspoken, which will be released in Benelux by Cineart in Belgium on January 7, 2009, was produced by Nino Lombardo of Prime Time, whose credits include Antonia's Line, The budget was around $2m (EUR1.4m).
Despite Troch's growing reputation, it was not an especially easy film to finance. Troch was working in French rather than Dutch. Potential French backers were not willing to take a risk on a project by a second-time Flemish feature director. Lombardo pushed ahead anyway. "My experience as a producer is that if you work with young people, at a certain moment you have to make the film and not wait too long," he says of the film, which was presented at last year's CineMart, the co-production market of the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Troch says the decision to shoot in French was driven by her choice of cast. "There were two actors I was very fond of. If I hadn't found these two actors (Devos and Todeschini), I don't think I would have tried to find other French actors."
Unspoken is about a couple trying to cope with the disappearance of their teenage daughter five years previously. They have tried to put her out of their minds and rebuild their lives but are haunted by her absence. This is not the conventional missing persons drama. Troch is not looking at the police investigation to find her but instead is probing away at the effect the disappearance has on the parents over the long term.
"I had the feeling that I really had the opportunity to show these two people, to show their emotions and the claustrophobic feelings," Troch says, pointing out that Unspoken is shot in a far more intimate way than Someone Else's Happiness. The film was edited by her father, Ludo Troch, an experienced figure with credits ranging from Sam Garbarski's Irina Palm to Lucas Belvaux's Cavale.
The daughter-father working relationship was, on the whole, harmonious. She explains that Ludo allowed her to discover the shortcomings of a scene for herself. "I am sure that wasn't just because I am his daughter. I've heard that from other directors; that Ludo gives you the time to realise it is crap!"
Ludo, meanwhile, is full of admiration for his daughter's obstinacy. "Fien is an auteur. She makes very, very personal films," he says. "She writes herself. She directs. I've worked a lot in France with directors who also try to create their own environment in film. That's what I like; she goes for it. And there are no compromises!"
Fien Troch's Cultural Life
Favourite recent book Jeune Fille by Anne Wiazemsky. "Anne writes about her experiences working with Robert Bresson on Au Hasard Balthazar. She tells the story with enormous love for cinema and the director himself."
Favourite recent film The Banishment by Andrei Zvyaginstev. "The beautiful silences, the dramatic tension and the strong story make this film one of the most touching film experiences I have had in the last year."
Favourite magazines and newspapers De Standaard; a decent Belgian newspaper
Website www.thesuperficial.com "Ridiculously empty but oh so hilarious."
Inspirations Novelist John Fante and photographer William Eggleston.