A passionate love for god in Hadwijch

by yves cape


From lettre de l’AFC 192 november 2009

Hadewijch a film by Bruno Dumont; shot by Yves Cape


With Julie Sokolowski, David Dewaele, Yassine Salim

Release November 25, 2009

Shocked by novice sister Hadewych’s ecstatic and blind faith, the Mother Superior shows her the convent door. Hadewych becomes Céline again, a young Parisienne, daughter of a diplomat. Her passionate love for God, her anger and her encounter with Khaled and his older brother Nassir will take her on a dangerous path between grace and madness.

This is my third collaboration with Bruno Dumont.

His films are becoming increasingly difficult to finance: despite critical acclaim, festival prizes and awards and worldwide recognition, they don’t do well at the box office. Bruno is always searching for simplicity, a personal form of simplicity, for his films. But what looks simple on screen may prove pretty complicated to achieve for those who have to make it – his camera crew, for instance. It takes a lot of inventiveness to meet the director’s demands within the available budget. I always try not to stick to my own convictions too much, but it’s not always easy. Still, even though I am making all sorts of sacrifices to make a film with Bruno, I am making them without any feeling of loss: I force myself to be at peace with myself. And I am increasingly enjoying working with Bruno. Time and again he will surprise you with new demands and ideas and with his strong commitment to improve his films.

We did eight weeks of shooting, first in winter and summer in the north, then in summer in Paris and then two days in Beyrouth. We chose to shoot this film in 35 mm, with a 1.66 screen ratio, on Kodak film stock, using digital colouring. All these choices, so easy to pronounce, have been made after endless hesitation, shilly-shallying, second thoughts and other anxieties. We started shooting almost a year after Bruno made me read the script. During that year, we shot a variety of test footage: the probable actors, the sets, frame options, light effects… For the first time we also did make up tests and tried out various formats. We did a lot of editing at the table verifying the shots on set with view finders and then back to the table. Bruno gave me musical, pictorial and literary references, told me about his intentions, desires and wishes.

I watched one of our lighting references – Michael Powell’s Black Narcissus, shot by Jack Cardiff – over and over again. I wanted to understand this light and this use of extraordinary colours that underline the directing and at the same time stand out… For L’Humanité and Flandres, we used natural light, but for Hadewych, we opted for “lumière actrice” (“acting light”), on the brink of expressionist light. I really love these periods of preparation… they allow you to dream and take your time!

This time Bruno wanted to try make the takes as long as possible to give more freedom to the actors – unlike the extremely short takes you can see nowadays – and to allow them to breathe again. It is a real pleasure to observe how Bruno helps these people, who are in the process of becoming actors, set their emotions free.

The film was digitally colour graded, which is a luxury for this budget. Bruno loves this tool, it allows him to visualize and try out all possible variations. We used it especially to work on the paleness of Hadewijch-Céline’s face and the colours.

Camera crew

1st Assistant camera: Gil Decamp

2nd Assistant camera: Julien Poupard

Key Grip: Bertrand Salliou and Emmanuel Van Wambeek

Gaffer: Eric Alirol

Film stock: Kodak Vision2 200T (5217) and 500T (5229)

Camera, electricity and grip: TSF Groupe

Laboratory: GTC

Digital and chemical colour grading: Christophe Bousquet.

Hadewijch winter

Interior winter image from Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch, shot by Yves Cape

julie sokolowski

Julie Sokolowski image from Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch, shot by Yves Cape

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