“It’s not the story; it’s the way you paint”: An interview with Bruno Dumont, the director of CoinCoin and the Extra Humans
French director Bruno Dumont returns for a second series of CoinCoin and the Extra Humans (CoinCoin et les Z’inhumains), showing at this year’s Locarno Film Festival. The peculiar cast of tragicomic locals in a rural French town must deal with extraterrestrial sludge from the sky.
We interviewed Dumont the day after the screening of the first few episodes in the Palacinema. We spoke to the director about his latest work, Monet, and his views on the human condition.
How does landscape influence your work?
Northern France is where I live. Stories take place in certain settings that are essentially overwhelming because it’s a metaphor for events, grotesque and spiritual. When you shoot a desert, it has poetic value. Choose the setting as a means to understand.
Can you describe the relationship between tragedy and comedy in your work, in the series particularly?
There are actions that are tainted by comedy and tragedy. It’s a huge tradition: sadness and joy. It’s the way we are made. I think tragedy and comedy is a circle, not an alternative. If it was pure tragedy, and it’s a little too much, you start laughing, as if humour was just there. It’s why I’m interested in both: it’s the same side of the same coin. I’m grasping the human condition in both my hands. It will generate something that will trigger laughter; it is totally incongruous to have extravagance and the extra-terrestrial. If it’s just a dead body, I’m not interested.
Is your prolific output a reflection of your desire to portray similar ideas in different shades?
Yes. Monet painted his haystacks – they’re always the same thing, and always something else. That’s what life is about. I don’t go to the cinema. In terms of images, it’s painting that speaks to me. I find a lot in how the images are composed. It’s often the same themes and topics. Cinema must do this in its own way. But it should not be painting. That would be a mistake. I’m no longer a film fan. I’m influenced by painting.
Can you explain your use of nonprofessional actors?
An amateur tends to play what is closest to him. It acts on a spiritual level. If you want composure, you use professional actors. I don’t have a problem with professional actors. It depends on the subject.
Why do you resist political readings of your work?
Politics is not important. What’s important to me is the spiritual. Politics is artificial. Spiritual forces are behind politics. My work has a political, moral, aesthetic angle. But pure politics? No.
Why do you wish to work in America?
To explode the expected industry standards. So I doubt it will happen.
Why are you planning to return to the story of Joan of Arc?
Again, it’s like Monet’s haystacks. It’s not the story; it’s the way you paint. Van Gogh made amazing paintings of still nature. It’s about subjects everyone knows about. To inject novelty, to renew the perspective, you provide a modern look. When you come to make an original film about a topic where you know the end, it’s not a problem. It’s a tragic and ecstatic life. It represents what women are today. What you hear in women’s rebellion. That challenge is already in Joan of Arc.
Is there freedom to your filmmaking?
My film cost one million euros. I am free. No one is going to tell me it’s good or it’s bad. Absolute freedom doesn’t exist and it’s not a problem.
How does your film speak to the human condition?
Men can be stupid, a bit dumb. It’s human nature. It’s amusing. People are not saints. We’re a bit of a liar, a bit racist, a bit lazy. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that. Hopefully we can get better.
Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/ Getty Images
Read more reviews from our Locarno Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Locarno Film Festival website here.