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IFFR 2019: NOCTURNE

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IFFR 2019: NOCTURNE

Viktor van der Valk’s debut feature Nocturne, written by Jeroen Scholten van Aschat and premiering in IFFR’s Bright Future section, is a very selfreflexive affair.

It is a film about a filmmaker trying to make a film, and struggling to separate fiction and reality as he does so. We see him wandering through the city by night. His girlfriend has left him, adding to his sense of bewilderment and estrangement. The main character Alex, is played by the Reykjavik-born director’s own brother Vincent van der Valk, while screenwriter Jeroen’s brother Reinout Scholten van Aschat is also in the cast.

Viktor and Jeroen were at the Netherlands Film Academy in Amsterdam together. The director was in the year ahead of the screenwriter and wanted to write his own scripts. However, when he embarked on his graduation movie Onno the Oblivious (2014), he realised he needed help. “I thought, OK, I need a partner in crime.” His teachers told him that all the screenwriters in his own class were already taken but that Jeroen in the year below was available. “We were on the same page in what we found interesting in cinema. He was also very open-minded,” the director says of his writer/collaborator.

Nocturne owes an obvious debt to Jean-Luc Godard in the way it bares its own devices and questions the very idea of telling dramatic stories on film. “I thought film is not only about telling a story. I use film more as a platform for thoughts, ideas and fragments,” the director reflects. “For me, it (filmmaking) is very close to making music in a way, with rhythm, tempo, editing and acting all connected. They are all different instruments that need to be in harmony somehow.”

Nocturne had its origins in Onno the Oblivious, which won some money as well as prizes for the director and his writer. “We said: ‘let’s make our dream come true and make our first feature film.” Having studied at film school for four years, Van der Valk was utterly immersed in the world of cinema. Movies were his reality. It therefore made perfect sense to make Nocturne into a story about a director similar to himself.

The movie was produced by Maniak Film, the company set up by Viktor together with another Film Academy colleague, producer Erik Glijnis (who is also currently working as a producer at Lemming Film). They used crowd funding, brought Lemming and Belgian outfit A Private View on board and secured Wildcard funding from the Netherlands Film Fund. Julius Ponten, the maverick producer behind Wolf, joined the team as executive producer after the Film Fund asked the filmmakers to find “someone a bit more experienced” to guide them on their first feature. “He (Ponten) is up for adventure. We thought he’s the guy we really need to have,” says Van der Valk.

As for casting his elder brother, Viktor points how that was part of a pact the two siblings made when they were kids. “We always used to make films together. We made a mutual agreement that our first feature film we would do together.”

Yes, its central character is very akin to Viktor himself who faced similar dilemmas in his work and private life. “It’s this crisis of having to grow up but being afraid of losing your childhood. It is how to deal with this world in front of your eyes but also how to deal with the world behind your eyes,” is how he characterises Alex’s state of mind in the film. “Film is a really good arena in which to touch these kinds of subjects. In film, you really live two different worlds. It is always a question of how far you go with your obsession and when you are coming back on earth!” Geoffrey Macnab

SEE NL Magazine #34 November 2019 / Sundance, IFFR, Berlin and Clermont Ferrand issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.

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