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Marlon Brando by Vincent Tilanus

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Cannes: Marlon Brando

17 June 2020


Vincent Tilanus' queer short Marlon Brando is selected for 2020 Cannes Semaine de la Critique. The young director talks to See NL.

In Marlon Brando, produced by Room For Film and supported by the Netherlands Film Fund, Cas and Naomi are best friends, in the most platonic of senses. But such is their love for each other, it eclipses the affection they feel for anybody else, to the consternation of his boyfriend and her mother.

The film is a very touching rights of passage tale, and is steeped in the bittersweet sensations that only adolescent love and friendship can kindle. It also works as a poignant snapshot in time, into which we can dip to observe the human condition in all of its playfulness, complexities and cruelities.

"I literally just wrote it as a story from my youth and adolescence, and it is even set in the locations where I grew up," says director Tilanus. "I wanted to write about love as friendship. I was inspired by many films but I wanted to make something where the two characters are truly in love with each other, but not sexually, as they would be with their own partners."

Cas and Naomi, both in their later teens, can only find true happiness within each other's company, talking incessantly, planning holidays together, playing very public pranks on each another that only they can appreciate and understand. When, later on, Cas tries to instigate a mock-row with his boyfriend on a street corner, as he would quite naturally with Naomi, Otto is left embarrassed and bemused, and the episode serves to illustrate why the pair are not as well suited as they would like.

But at the root of so many rites of passage stories lies a moment of betrayal, and this film is no different. But disappointment can be a transitory thing, and even while it might determine the future trajectory of a friendship, it doesn't have to eradicate the happy memories that have built up over that friendship's duration. As this film suggests.

"A big transformation has always occurred with my own friendships, and those of the people that I know," comments Tilanus of what inspired Marlon Brando. "Yes, I can only describe it as bittersweet because friendships change, which I think is always considered to be a loss, but there is also beauty in the change, and there is growth. These were emotions and thoughts that had to be written down."

Marlon Brando is to Tilanus as Kurt Cobain was to Nanouk Leopold, in so far as the roles these icons play in the respective films are tangential. (The young lad in Leopold's Cobain was named after the Nirvana lead man by a mother with a drug dependency). Brando's head makes an appearance in this film as a series of cut-outs placed strategically on naked figures. "We all link metaphors and meaning to those characters and they create another layer to think about," says Tilanus. "There is of course a symbolism, but a lot is done in the head of the viewer.

Despite its selection for Cannes, the production was low key and "personal", and Tilanus helped to perform many additional functions, he claims, from location scout to production designer. This in turn informed his approach to direction, and a desire to create an atmosphere best suited to the delivery of an accomplished film.

"As a director you need to know how to build a creative stage for everybody to operate in. If you make sure that the boundaries of that stage make complete sense for everybody, then everyone can work freely and be spontaneous. [On Marlon Brando] the cast and crew were very well rooted into the logical environment of the film," Tilanus concludes.

For more information:
Room for Film
Ph: +31 6 293 62360

Semaine de la Critique

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