Cannes: Dan Geesin & Esther Rots
17 June 2020
CINEFONDATION ATELIER: A FUCKED UP TRIBUTE TO MOTHERLY LOVE
Dan Geesin and Esther Rots are selected for Cannes Cinéfondation Atelier 2020 with what they describe as a fairy-tale thriller that blends the tragedy of miscommunication with the humour of our perpetual coming of age.
In A Fucked Up Tribute to Motherly Love, Samuel Dirk (48) is a recently divorced piano tuner, still trying to wriggle out from under his mother's dreams. Even a sexually charged trip to Belgium is not enough to extinguish the fires of his mother's expectations, ultimately boiling over with fatal consequences.
Both of co-director Esther Rots' features to date (Can Go Through Skin and Retrospekt) were selected for Berlinale where they were critically acclaimed. Her work is described as "revolving mostly around the beautiful logic of the subconscious".
Polymath Dan Geesin (filmmaker, artist, musician) has written/directed over twenty short films. His Elephant Feet won the Dutch Academy award in 2011, premiered internationally at Clermont Ferrand and was selected by the Cesars for the Nuits en Or before a sale to Arte. He is now in post-production on Sputum, described as a "dark and dirty sci-fi film." Of his approach to his craft, he tells how he uses "visual and sound pallets together with a dry sense of humour to tell his stories in an intuitive way".
"Samuel Dirk is literally made, like Pinocchio, by his mum with all the right ingredients," says Geesin of the project's hero. "He is given all the love, given all the best opportunities and the most encouragement, but ultimately there is a huge sense of failure."
"It's in a way to do with the meaning of life, a literal take on how everything that you learn and do to get ahead in life are seen as ingredients," he adds. "It then takes that idea and uses it as ingredients for people. So although it is a very real filmed environment, the theatricality is in the eventual recycling of those ingredients."
"But it's also a shadowy reflection of life and its misunderstandings. Not understanding each other is the number one human tragedy. The film's very much about that too." In his notes Geesin refers to the obtuse dialogue that will be used as a tool for these humorous misunderstandings and frustrations. "These communicative fumblings are at best wonderfully funny and at worst confusingly painful, but almost always universally understood."
When asked about the genesis of the project, Geesin describes both a childhood in Sussex and the wide expanses of the Groningen countryside where he now mostly works. "My mum was always making jam, the shelves next to the stairs into the cellar were full of jams and marmalades and an array of colours and labels and pots... The film is a lot of things, a big mixed bag of autobiography and fantasy from then and now."
Why, then, two directors, given the intensely personal nature of the tale? "A film is a huge gesamt artwork and a team sport. I am good at theatricality, dialogue, details and a big picture, but the cinematic experience? That is mostly Esther, she is better than me at that. And she is also better at realism." he answers.
Geesin also underlines the senses both of theatricality and dystopia that will be evident within the film (and which will be on show in his upcoming feature debut Sputum). "Strange things happen in A Fucked Up Tribute, but they are just matter of fact, like that scene in Hannibal (2001), where they are eating Paul's brains and he is sitting there at the table with the top of his head cut off. Although this is a horror thriller, it is still quite matter of fact."