by Gabriele Ottaviani
Charles Dhondt is a young and talented filmmaker, who loves Mulholland Drive (David Lynch), Dancer in the Dark (Lars Von Trier), Senso (Luchino Visconti), Orlando (Sally Potter), Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins) and Chapel Road (Louis Paul Boon’s novel). With his movie, Wow Sophia, Wow, now in Nyon’s festival Visions du Réel, he decided to tell a story of love and emotional and sexual awakening between a man and a woman. And he is the man. It was a great honor to interview him.
When did you decide to make this movie?
Wow Sophia, Wow (17’, 2016) was part of my BA’s degree Audiovisual Studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium. It was first conceived as a linear narrative about a strolling girl in the city, reflecting on her daily routine but evolved into something quite different and far more personal. In April 2016 I spent my time at the Courtisane Festival in Ghent, Belgium where I saw works by Michel Khleifi, the Berwick Street Film Collective and Pasolini (Location Hunting in Palestine, 1965). At this time the process of the film began. During each pre-production process I collect an image-bank and write a notebook full of ordinary, strange and funny things I saw and thought of during the previous months. At the time I was hugely influenced by Terence Davies’ The Long Day Closes, from which I directly cited in my film. So I wanted to cast Sophia Bauer, a German textile design student, for this roll of the strolling girl. We met in our minor class Drama. She was radiant, funny, clever and full of energy. There was a tension going on, she touched me several times, I liked it. One night at the Courtisane festival she took me to her apartment. I was stiff with fear. A wave of latent sexual emotions came loose. I was 21. This experience let to a closer collaboration with Sophia and the film was shot sporadicly during the first several months (april – may – june 2016) of our young new relationship. It became a stylized document of the time, interweaved with fictionalized bits that re-enforced the documentary turn of the project.
What is the importance of love for you in everyday life? And in the present society?
You need love, you need hate. I like history.
Images or words: what is most important in a movie? And why?
Cinema is an art of the sensible, an emotional language, the juxtaposition of image and sound are the foundations of that. For me words are just the topping on these foundations, the intellectual and geographic guidance you build up to make something clear, give it a twist, enhance it, enrich it, etc. It’s still a dream factory, and what is more present in dreams? Although the voice, reminiscent of other media, like radio or podcasts, can be thought of as meaningful besides the actual verbal content. By listening it can give you spatial information, a direct point of listening, alerts your attention, give you personal information, … There is a lot more to grasp in the voice besides the sound and music.
What message would you like to get to your viewers by viewing your movie?
The message is in the eye of the beholder. I can only hope that this ‘message’ is in a way a universal one. That this very personal film is able to resound in the minds of the public.
What is cinema for you?
Cinema is a hidden world that needs to be revealed, in all its forms. Cinema is a movement in time, like dance, theatre or music. Cinema is literature, psychology and philosophy. Cinema is craft and technology. Cinema is sculpting, painting and drawing. Cinema offers sounds and images of ugliness and beauty, but this beauty of images is never an end. To quote Jacques Rancière in Bèla Tarr, The Time After: “It is only the reward for a fidelity to the reality that one wants to express and to the means that one employs in doing so. Cinema is an art of the sensible. Not simply of the visible and audible. It is this interweaving that constitutes the reality of a situation, the reality of the lived time of individuals. It must give the most precise expression possible to the reality that people live.” That’s its responsibility. The form is plural, I consider it a living high art form that can bring people closer together.
What are your next projects?
At the moment I am working on my Master’s degree Film in the Audiovisual Arts at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts KASK in Ghent, Belgium. I will graduate with my master film and thesis in June 2018. It will tackle themes like innocence, the representation of the past and sexuality/eroticism.
herkenning en bevreemding.