Frans Weisz • Director
“This film has taken me to many countries, more than any of my other films”
- Dutch director Frans Weisz presented his family film Finn at the London Film Festival. Cineuropa spoke to him
During his long career, Dutch director Frans Weisz has combined experimental and artistic works with several box-office smashes. He is now presenting a family film, Finn [+see also:
interview: Frans Weisz
film profile], at the London Film Festival, and he is surprised at the huge international success it has elicited – more so than any of his other films. The young protagonist that gives the film its name lives with his father in a tiny town following the death of his mother. Everyone expects him to start playing football, like all the other kids of his age. After meeting a mysterious man who plays the violin, Finn decides he wants to learn how to play this instrument, which he considers magical, but almost everyone around him is against it - especially his dad.
Cineuropa: Why did you decide to make a film for families at this specific time?
Frans Weisz: The last time I watched a children's film it was Bambi, but I felt this was the right moment. When I started out as a director, there were maybe three or four filmmakers in the whole of Holland. There wasn't a film industry, and making a film such as this one would have been impossible. Now we could afford to do so. And I am very happy to have filmed it, as it allowed me to see many countries, more than any of my other films.
The story is very organic. There are no fantasy worlds, and special effects are not overused; it is much closer to traditional stories.
As with many of my other films, there is a theatrical approximation, so it feels more classical. My dream was to become a stage actor. You are much more likely to see me in a seat at the theatre than at the cinema. We also tried to tell a story without being condescending to the younger audiences, treating them as young adults instead. The writer Annie Schmidt, who was the Dutch version of Hans Christian Andersen, wrote her short stories with this approach. Many years ago, she asked me to turn one of her tales into a film. That was not possible, but luckily now I have been able to complete this project. Until now, I have only made films that I thought could say something about me. And that was the case for this one, too.
Billy Elliot, a boy who would rather dance than play football, is just one of the references for this film.
In order to secure funding, I was showing images of the protagonist of Life Is Beautiful, Charlie Chaplin's The Kid, Home Alone... I found Mels van der Hoeven, the child who plays Finn, at the last casting, just before the filming started. I wanted the protagonist to be charismatic, capable of holding up the whole film by himself, somehow. Working with him was difficult, because I later found out that Mels was in a similar situation to that of his character, and that he had lost his mum when he was two years old. He kept on asking me about the film's ending, but I didn't want to tell him. I noticed that, for him, the film was as much of an adventure as it was for Finn, and so I decided not to tell him about the ending.
The first time you went to a film festival was in the 1960s. How much has changed since then?
Over the last few decades, the concept of the film festival has evolved, and in certain cases it has become specialised. For example, the way the festival and its different sections are organised in London is something that I had never seen before. There are festivals like Giffoni, dedicated to children and young people: there, they are the protagonists, and everyone else just has a supporting role. What I do think is that, at some of the big festivals, there is a huge “battle of the egos”. I imagine hell to be like a never-ending edition of Cannes.
(Translated from Spanish)
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