Culture.ee interview: Bertrand Mandico and his feverishly written film The Wild Boys

Helina Koldek did an enchanting interview with Bertrand Mandico, a  bold  and provocative  author and director of the feature film The Wild Boys that was also his debut as a feature filmmaker. 

What’s your background as a person, as a cinephile and as a filmmaker?

 A journey of passion, a frantic love for the cinema, a modest approach through animation and experimental cinema. An exuberant appetite for inspiring films. The romantic desire to make films that take spectators on a wave, salty and sweet.

Your first feature film The Wild Boys is finally conquering the film festivals and hearts of the audiences. How long did you make it and how did it go?

I have made a lot of short and medium-length films over the years, I have written feature films that have tangled in the nets of passive producers. Finally, I could do The Wild Boys pretty quickly, I wrote the script in an urgent and feverish burst. I shot the film a few months after writing it. The development of the soundtrack and editing took me over a year.

The universe of the mysterious island in The Wild Boys is really unique and haunting. There’s something exotic, erotic, dreamy and generous but also cruel and dangerous in the air. What’s the story behind that island?

It is an encounter between a Jules Verne like robinsonade and the stories of William Burroughs. This border between the childhood stories and the book discovered in adolescence. I wanted to make an epic and poisonous adventure movie. Something between an embrace and a bite, a free and frisky film.

Desires and brutality, eroticism and cruelty often go hand in hand in your films. What’s fascinating you in these combinations?

I like contrasts. Or the contrary currents. They are the driving force of fictional subjects. Without the two poles, there is no movement. It’s a substance of fiction, emotion.

You are revisiting some topics over and over again. One of these is sexual transformation. How do you see this kind of metamorphosis? In Wild Boys, it seemed that the bodies were changing but the personalities stayed the same. So is that a mere body journey and not at all a mind trip or…?

I am for the idea of borderlessness, confusion of genders. Bodies change and minds adapt. Nothing is fixed in sexuality or gender, everything is metamorphosis. You can slalom from one side to the other while remaining yourself.

Women have very exciting and extraordinary roles in your movies and one of your special actresses is Elina Löwensohn. Tell us about this co-work.

With The Wild Boys, I was able to give previously unseen roles to the actresses. I find that actresses are too often confined to conventional roles. Elina Löwensohn is a brilliant actress with a vast register. We have been collaborating for more than eight years on short films, a collection that we have undertaken. A kind of fictional reflection on aging and desire. Elina helped me to better understand the work of actresses to perceive nuances of the field of possibilities.

The Wild Boys has a fantastic and truly atmospheric soundtrack. How do you put sound and images together?

It’s a very time-consuming job. I film without taking any direct sound. Once the first editing is done, I create a soundtrack. I record the voices which allows me to direct the actresses again, I create emotional and sensitive sound atmospheres with my collaborators, we develop realistic or surreal sound effects, and I place music. Some pre-existing, others are composed by Pierre Desprat. And then I try to measure out all these elements to create a kind of sound river, an emotional and coherent current. On this movie, we had more than 400 tracks on the mix.

Which movies, artworks, and books are some of your favourites or have influenced you the most?

The list is long, for this film: The Wild Boys by Burroughs, Two Years’ Vacation by Jules Verne, drawings by Henry Darger, Genet’s Querelle for Fassbinder, Fighting Elegy by Suzuki, Wakamatsu, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Lewis John Carlino, Lord of the Flies by Brooks, Onibaba by Kaneto Shindô, Stevenson, Cocteau, The Profound Desire of the Gods by Imamura, Kenneth Anger, Max Ophuls, Mysterious Morning, Noon and Evening by Jean-Claude Forest, Ulysses by Lob and Pichard …  to name but a few.

What’s next? Do you continue with the shorts or are there more feature films to come in the near future?

I am just shooting a medium-length film about desperate women during a sci-fi film shoot … and a short film about organ liberation. I hope I can shoot a new feature film in a few months (currently in financing). And I have a fantastic series in a finishing stage of writing.


Fiery film director Bertrand Mandico