Giordano Gederlini • Director of On The Edge
"Just like in tragedies, violence is forced upon my characters"
- We met with the screenwriter and director to talk about his angst-inducing crime film set in a sometimes-ghostly Brussels, which is occasionally haunted by a worn-out father condemned to violence
We sat down with Giordano Gederlini, who’s presenting his new film, On The Edge [+see also:
interview: Giordano Gederlini
film profile], at the Brussels International Film Festival. It’s an angst-inducing crime movie and a homage to the rules of the art, which is set in an occasionally ghostly, nocturnal and post-industrial Brussels haunted by Antonio de la Torre, who plays a worn-out father condemned to violence.
Cineuropa: How did this project come about?
Giordano Gederlini: I was really keen to tackle the detective thriller genre, the crime genre. I’d circled that universe a little bit with Mothers’ Instinct [+see also:
interview: Olivier Masset-Depasse
film profile] and with Above the Law [+see also:
interview: François Troukens
film profile] too; it’s a genre we don’t often see in French or Belgian film. I wanted to step inside that universe with a somewhat isolated character who might be a little like me, a foreigner living in Brussels. My dream was to make an urban crime film, with a view to exploring this city I’ve been living in for 9 years as if it were a genuine film set, and that seemed to fit in well with the story.
Who is Leo Castañeda, the film’s hero?
Leo Castañeda is a Spaniard living here in Brussels. He drives a metro train and works in the city’s underground world. One night, he experiences a tragedy. While driving his underground train, he sees a young man who ends up on the train tracks. We later learn that it’s his son. From that point onwards, some sort of investigation begins to find out what kind of a rough patch his son was going through.
There’s another traditional crime film motif in the movie, that of the man without a past, which is something I’m really interested in. I had this vision of a somewhat isolated character with a broken, obliterated past, and bearing a fracture. I wanted to start the story there. A guy whom we don’t know much about and whose past is slowly revealed to us.
He finds himself in a peculiar state, on the edge? It’s when his fracture appears that the story gets going.
Yes, he’s in a strange state of limbo. I started out as a screenwriter and I love the playful writing involved in crime films, which isn’t always an option in socially oriented films or in cinéma du réel. With crime films, you can enjoy thinking up a slightly more harrowing story where viewers often feel two steps behind. It’s this possibility of play during the writing process that I really liked when exploring the film’s universe. We know very little about Leo, so we’re witnessing the development of a character as well as his ruin, in an overly violent story.
It also examines the notion of lacking fatherhood…
The detective thriller world also offers up an existentialist question about the time we have left on this planet, especially if we need to take especially violent action where we risk losing our lives. Who do we leave behind us? What have we missed out on in our personal lives? What regrets might we have when death comes knocking at our door in such brutal fashion? I wanted people to wonder how much humanity my characters would have left when confronted with such chaos.
The film also questions the way children follow in their parents’ footsteps, sometimes even repeating their mistakes.
Yes, their legacy plays a part. Without giving away too much, we realise that the father wanted to force his passion upon his son, which the latter wasn’t interested in. They’re relatively fragile characters. In fact, I think it’s quite a good-natured film, a little bit 1980s. I really like the musical world of that era and the visual work that goes into this type of movie, but that doesn’t make it a macho film. It’s about slightly worn out and tired men, 50-year-olds who don’t have any interest in fighting, but who find themselves in situations of conflict through no choice of their own. It’s not a crime film which plays on the tough guy act, it’s a film which explores the sensitivity of its protagonists, although there are several violent action scenes.
There’s a sense of reluctance when it comes to violence.
Yes, violence is forced upon them, moreover that’s what you always find in tragedies. Fate imposes a certain brutality which we have to survive.
(Translated from French)
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