Bergamo Film Meeting

Jaco Van Dormael – Retrospective of complete works in the Europe, Now! section #BFM41

Play Podcast
13 min. and 43 sec.

Jaco Van Dormael, protagonist of Europe, Now! at the Bergamo Film Meeting talks about his cinema and his first film, Toto le héros coming back restored in 4K in italian cinemas from April 17th thanks to I WONDER CLASSICS.

Play Podcast
13 min. and 43 sec.

PODCAST | Chiara Nicoletti interviews the director Jaco Van Dormael.

To listen to the interview, click on the ► icon on the right, just above the picture

Jaco Van Dormael, protagonist of Europe, Now! at the 41st Bergamo Film Meeting talks about his cinema and the complete retrospective of his works the festival has organized. The festival will also present the 4K restored version of his first film, Toto le héros that will come back to italian cinemas from April 17th thanks to I WONDER CLASSICS. The director shares with us his memories from that Festival De Cannes of 1991 where he presented Toto le héros to the cinema world.

Jaco Van Dormael (Ixelles, Belgium, 1957) He’s a director, screenwriter and producer. Raised between Germany and Belgium, Van Dormael first developed a passion for theatre, which accompanied him throughout his artistic career. At the age of eighteen, he took up clowning and became a director of children’s shows. After studying film at Louis-Lumière in Paris and INSAS in Brussels, he wrote and directed his first short documentary and fiction films in the early 1980s. The best known, È pericoloso sporgersi (1984), is the story of a child who experiences two possible versions of his future. The short film won the Grand Prix at the Clermont-Ferrand festival, revealing Van Dormael’s experimental, non-linear, dreamlike and visionary narrative style, his predilection for childhood characters and themes, and his near-obsession in depicting the complexity of life, caught between choices and destiny, between limitations and possibilities. Success with audiences and critics came in 1991 with his first feature film, Toto le héros (Toto the hero at the end of the millennium), in which old Totò is convinced he’s been swapped with his neighbour as a baby and is determined to take revenge for having been robbed of his actual life. On its debut at Cannes, the film won the Caméra d’Or, followed by a César and four European Film Awards. In 1996, he presented Le Huitième Jour (The Eighth Day), a Palme d’Or at Cannes for the two leads – Daniel Auteuil and Pascal Duquenne – who portray on screen a unique friendship that develops between an ordinary man and a boy with Down Syndrome. At the core of the film is another theme that runs through Van Dormael’s filmography, i.e. physical and mental disability, always portrayed respectfully and sympathetically. Several years later, Van Dormael directed Mr. Nobody (2009), starring Jared Leto and Sarah Polley and winner of the Best Screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival. Picking up on the subject of the “alternative” lives of È pericoloso sporgersi (in fact, all of Van Dormael’s films refer to each other), he portrays a hypothetical future where Nemo Nobody, the last of mortals and the world’s oldest man, retraces all the possible versions of his past, in a tangle of lives lived or imagined, conditioned by individual choices and chance. Van Dormael’s fourth feature film, Le tout nouveau testament (The Brand New Testament) came out in 2015. A surreal comedy where a despotic and violent God torments and controls the destinies of humans through an old computer, the film premiered at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs in Cannes to critical acclaim, was a box-office success and won four Magritte Awards, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Jaco Van Dormael is not a prolific author, accustomed as he is to developing his scripts over the years, reworking ideas and suggestions collected in notes accumulated day by day. More than a decade has passed between one film and the next, even if interspersed with a few shorts and theatrical plays. From such perspective, Bovary (2021), his latest work, represents an anomaly: born from a stage adaptation of Flaubert’s novel and written by Michael De Cock, artistic director of the Royal Flemish Theater in Brussels. The original play was to be performed live but was cancelled due to the pandemic. To deliver it to an audience, Van Dormael agreed to shoot in a very short time and bring it to life on the screen: “In five days, I tried to make something that is neither film nor theatre”, making extensive use of back projection and extended close-ups or resorting to other cinematic gimmicks. An experiment born out of an emergency situation, which nevertheless allowed Van Dormael to combine, for once, his passion for cinema and the stage.

To discover more, click here.

  • Reporter
    Chiara Nicoletti
  • Guest
    Jaco Van Dormael
  • Interviewee role
  • Film title
    Retrospective of complete works in the Europe, Now! section
  • Festival section
    Europe, Now!
Now playing:
Featured Posts