How Lukas Dhont Found ‘Close’ After His Cannes Winning ‘Girl’

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After taking home the Un Certain Regard Fipresci prize in 2018 for the trans-female ballet dancer feature Girl, filmmaker Lukas Dhont returned to home to find himself staring at the blank page for his next project.

That would ultimately be this year’s in competition movie, Closewhich grapples with teen suicide and has a lot of buzz on the ground that it could take the Palme d’Or. A24 announced the stateside pick-up of Close last night on the pic’s premiere here on the Croisette.

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“I didn’t know what I was going to do, I had all sorts of proposals,” the Belgian director said during Close‘s Cannes Film Festival conference this morning. “I had a lot of doubts, I was racked by my doubts.”

“I was much more aware of myself, and I knew a lot of people looked at me,” Dhont explained, “I wanted to do something with the same intensity and passion as Girl.”

Dhont returned to the primary school close to where his mother lived. “I wanted to remember the child I was for the sake of that child,” he said.

“She said to me with great confidence and trust, ‘I’m sure you exactly know what you want to do,'” he continued, “and that was the beginning.”

Close from Lukas Dhont, follows the friendship of two 13-year old boys, Leo and Remi, the latter of which commits suicide. Leo is convinced he’s to blame. Struggling to understand what has happened, he approaches Sophie, Rémi’s mother.

Dhont explained how crucial it was to find the boys, Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele, who play Leo and Remi. That boils down to spending a lot of time with them in the casting.

In regards to directing kids who haven’t acted before, Dhont said it’s “not something you can force, it needs to be there.”

“With young people for me it’s important for me not to put too much dialogue in their mouths,” the director said, “It’s important that they speak as themselves..” The script is but a map.

The two actresses who plays the boy’s mothers, Sophie (Emilie Dequenne) and Nathalie (Léa Drucker) agreed that Dhont’s style in directing the children is similar with adults in that there’s not a strict screenplay to adhere to, rather to provide room for organic emotional moments.

“You learn a lot from young actors,” said Drucker, “It gives us huge food for thought for our own work; it’s pure, there’s no technique. It disrupts how we think about things. We need to get rid of the technique to get to the absolute truth in Lukas and his film.”

“Acting with Eden and Gustav, it deconstructs everything we’re doing,” added Drucker.

Said Dequenne, “Lukas is always looking for something private. Sometimes the technique allows you to keep control of the situation. The way that Lukas works….things escape us, we’re not in control like in other films. There’s so much room for spontaneity.”

Deadline film reviewer Todd McCarthy beamed about Close, “One of the strongest films to premiere in this year’s Competition, Close has huge potential for awards across the board. Sad to say, it will need them; the Cannes laurels will only do so much work, because, for a film this intimate, only the Palme d’Or really counts. Is Close the little film that could? On the bright side, it just very well might be.”

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