Face of Flanders: Kris De Meester
€10,000 doesn’t seem like much to invest for the chance to win an award at Cannes Film Festival, but that depends on how much you have. Kris De Meester’s English-language film Four Roses won the award for best no-budget film, so we’re supposing there wasn’t much more in the kitty.
To the victor go the spoils, and De Meester can certainly be satisfied with creating such a remarkable debut film with no help, including the Flemish Audio-visual Fund, which refused him both initial funding and post-production support.
Every penny he spent is up there on the screen: 80 minutes and essentially one location. (There’s a suggestion from a couple of exterior shots that we may be in the US, but it was all shot in an Antwerp hotel). The cast of six couples inhabit rooms, where their lack of communication is at the centre of each individual’s alienation.
He shot the entire film in four days in a rich black and white, which, together with the general atmosphere of anomie, has led to comparisons with American indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, whose early work, like Down by Law and Stranger than Paradise, were similarly no-budget, similarly alienated and similarly monochrome.
De Meester wrote, produced and directed. He also did the casting, which is in fact the 38-yearold’s day job. He’d met most of the actors on previous jobs, and only auditioned one of the roles – the girl Hubke, played by Mieke Daneels, who spends most of the film naked. He fell in love instantly, he says in an interview posted on the film’s website but kept everything on a professional level until the end of shooting.
The two of them are now a couple, and she and her three children feature in his new film, which is about “talking rabbits, invincible vampires, flying hippos and a woman getting over the suicide of her husband”.
Four Roses, in English with some Portuguese, is showing at Actor’s Studio in Brussels, Cartoon’s in Antwerp and Studio Skoop in Ghent