The 44th New Directors/New Films continues the festival's tradition of offering New York audiences a first look at the best up-and-coming talent in world cinema. FilmLinc Daily is covering this year's selections with short interviews with the filmmakers. ND/NF takes place March 18-29 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Flemish filmmaker Bas Devos’s feature debut, Violet, has received worldwide acclaim leading up to its inclusion in New Directors/New Films. Most notably, the film won Best Feature Film in the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival's Generation 14plus competition. Violet, which tells the harrowing story of a teenager grappling with the senseless murder of his friend, screens March 19 and 21.
Bas Devos, Belgium/Netherlands, 2014, DCP, 82m
Description: The muted but harrowing tone of Violet emerges in the prologue, as closed-circuit monitors impassively display the stabbing death of a teenager at a mall. The victim’s friend Jesse (Cesar De Sutter), unable to intervene, is the lone witness to the murder. Between attending black-metal concerts and prowling the suburban sprawl with his BMX biker gang, Jesse grapples with the aftermath of the crime within his community. Favoring exquisitely fluid compositions and telling silences over dialogue, writer-director Bas Devos’s feature debut has a profoundly uneasy yet entrancing atmosphere, punctuated with bursts of online imagery and a meticulous, startling soundtrack. Reminiscent of Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park in its minimalist portrayal of aimless, maladjusted youth, Violet is a continually surprising exploration of pain and guilt, an interior voyage that only grows tenser and more affecting as it arrives at darker, less comprehensible regions of the soul.
Responses from Bas Devos:
On the expressive power of filmmaking:
I am attracted to something on the border of the narrative—where the story ends, but the image and sound linger. This almost “dangerous” moment, where seemingly nothing happens, but the audience connects to the world as seen or heard by the filmmaker. I suppose that’s the moment when the most interesting questions arise.
I was drawn to the theme of grieving because of the peculiar state it can evoke within oneself. It is an altered experience of reality in which time slows down while space expands. It’s a process that seemingly underlines our loneliness and powerlessness and at the same time reveals our strength as human beings. We glimpse—for a split second—what matters.
On achieving realism with actors:
I always work with a combination of both professional and nonprofessional actors. Within defined lines there’s room to improvise. I like it a lot if something comes to life on set. I trust the people I work with, and I try to show them this confidence. That way they will hopefully feel at ease and can let go. When it works, I see the man on screen and no longer the performer.
On using the tools of cinema to tell the story:
In telling this story, we wanted to rely as much as possible on the tools of film, from the materiality of the image, through light and dark, noise and silence. The film is composed mainly of long takes, so the editing was hard. Finding the right pace was difficult since there was no clear plot-driven structure to fall back on.
On upcoming projects:
I wrote a new script that I hope to start developing soon. It’s a film about Brussels, which is where I live. It's a city of immigrants that struggles to provide a home to all of us. The film deals with this concept of home and how we relate to both private and public space.