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TIFF 2016 Interview: Director Peter Monsaert Talks “LE CIEL FLAMAND”


When I read the synopsis for LE CIEL FLAMAND prior to seeing it, I knew that it will be the kind of film that will touch every viewer’s heart deeply. In the meantime, I was certain that it may cause a heartache as well. When I finally got a chance to see it, I realized it was much more powerful and impactful than I had anticipated. In my case, I had to take three breaks to digest what Monsaert had to offer. In your case, you will have to and must see it till the end, to see a life that, sadly, happens to someone on daily basis.

During the Toronto International Film Festival, to be precise prior the festival, I got a few minutes with the writer and filmmaker Peter Monsaert, who kindly shared the reason for making LE CEL FLAMAND and much more.

MOVIEMOVESME: I’m interested to know where the story of this dysfunctional came from?

Peter Monsaert: I have two daughters myself. My daughters are nine years old. The core of the idea came when they were born and when I held them in my hands for the first time I felt something I never felt before; some sort of vulnerability that parents can feel towards their children. I had never felt it before and I always try in my work to make stuff that are really personal in some way. So I wanted to do something with the feeling that you have as a parent. I really wanted to face my own fears actually and I wanted to make something I didn’t want to live myself. It’s actually my worst fear I made the film about.

MOVIEMOVESME: Why specifically did you choose to have a story with two mothers and a little girl to be in this film to face you own fears?

Peter Monsaert: The fear was the starting point and I like to have in a film different kinds of emotions of course. The theme of the guilt is also an important story, the thing I wanted to work on in this story. Therefore, I created the situation where everybody can feel some sort of guilt and tries to maybe put the guilt on the other one. I don’t like black and white characters; everybody in this movie has some sort of guilt and only the little girl shows purity in this whole thing. It is this unpleasant event which is some sort of coincidence, and everybody starts to relate to that incidence and give themselves the blame or blame another one. She wants to find the guy but she also blames herself because she’s doing that job. The grandmother blames herself because she started this bar. The daughter blames the mother because she started the bar. Everybody is blaming everybody because they can’t handle some sort of event which is, in effect, too big to handle. It’s only the little girl and she’s forgotten. It should be about her; in the aftermath it becomes about everybody except for the girl. So this theme of guilt and blame is something I wanted to make the film about which is why I created this particular setting.

MOVIEMOVESME: As a man how challenging was it to get deep into a woman’s mind and write a story about them?

Peter Monsaert: As a writer I don’t think in terms of male, female emotions. I grew up amongst females. I have two sisters, a mother and of course a father but he wasn’t home a lot. I must say I just try to make honest characters and I try to have compassion, respect for the characters that I write with their flaws and mistakes. It’s not like I have a psychological cheat or female studies or whatever, I guess it’s just my female side and personality.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about how did you manage to capture such an amazingly well performed scene where Eline is talking to the psychologist in the police station, considering it is so difficult for such a young child to understand what it’s about?

Peter Monsaert: It was actually magic for us as it was the very first scene we did with the little girl. Before the shooting started there was a day in a real police station where we used actual police station drawings as it could be very difficult for children to talk about. It was amazingly simple for the girl. I just told her that she’s very sad; I hadn’t talked about sexual parts, the violation that the girl gets in the movie, I just said you meet a man you don’t know and he hurts you a lot. That’s all we said because she’s six years old. It was the first day of shooting and we were all sitting there amazed. She did everything perfect; psychologically, I didn’t have to tell her anything.

MOVIEMOVESME: What do you want the viewer to get from this film?

Peter Monsaert: That’s a very difficult question; I hope different people get different things out of this movie. I gave to the world this very big set not just for entertainment and I hope they think about what happened and stuff. I hope people start talking about it and get stuff out of it. I don’t want to send one message, I’m not a moralist; that’s why everybody is guilt in this movie except the young girl. Dick, the father, he ends up there looking at the guy he murdered, he’s also guilty but you can understand his point of view. If there’s one thing I would like people to question themselves, “What would you do? Go ahead and turn yourself in to the police or have your family happy again?” That moral dilemma is interesting to think about. Be the hero and go to jail but do the right thing turning yourself in or what’s the right thing to do? There’s no one right thing. That’s my point in the movie. It’s also not about who did it, I’m not interested in finding the killer, it’s the moral questions surrounding it that are much more important for me.

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