Is this the centre ? by Michel Couturier was part of the Short Film Competition Made in Euregion of Euregion Film Forum 2023. For this case-study he explains to us why this film was made and what the city of Liège means to him.
A film with a resolutely artistic and poetic turn
"At the beginning, in fall 2020, Laurent Jacob, from 251 Nord, invited me to produce a new work in Liège for the project Element initiated by the Maastricht European Capital of Culture Foundation of Culture 2018. I was very interested in this proposal because it was in line with my concerns. It was soon questioned about the Place Saint-Lambert, the central point of the city as well as an emblematic place of the city's historical and urbanistic convulsions. I am originally from Liège and I grew up near this square, which I walked across almost every day throughout my childhood and adolescence. It was then the Place Saint-Lambert before its demolition-reconstruction, so I was particularly sensitive to the subject, a mixture of nostalgia and anger."
"I immediately decided to make a video (which was not evident at first, I am more of a visual artist than a film director). I did not go through the stage of writing a script, even though I had already written something that was more of a note of intent, without a precise description of the content. I started filming practically alone with my own equipment. I spent many days on the square, alone or with an assistant, making contact with the skateboarders."
"At the beginning, I also had a more documentary and social approach: I investigated and met various actors in the field such as associations that help psychiatric patients, others that take care of the homeless, I met social workers. I filmed interviews with some of these people, but the result did not satisfy me, either in terms of the quality of the questions and answers or, above all, in terms of the appropriateness of the relationship with the people interviewed and the accuracy of the images. This is the reason why the film does not contain these interviews and why it has taken a more resolutely artistic and poetic turn."
"From the beginning and all along it, the project was also sustained by numerous discussions with Laurent Jacob (credited as the project's artistic director) and as well as with other people. One of them suggested that I read Alan Moore's novel Jerusalem because she saw an echo of our discussions."
The production process
"I then wrote a text by proceeding as I had done a few times before, by collaging snippets of quotations from the book that I truncated and transformed and a text I had written myself. This text then served as the backbone for the making and editing of the film and I wanted it to be carried by a voice, by a character rather than to appear in subtitles. So, there are images in the film that required a cameraman and a sound recordist (the ones with actors) and the images I filmed myself."
"Seeing that the project was getting bigger, I looked for more important means of production - and diffusion - and I turned to Dérives who welcomed the project and put a cameraman and a soundman and equipment on the project."
"I did the editing alone or with the assistant, at home on my computer. It was quite a long and important job, as there was no script at the beginning, let alone a cut, and even the option of modifying colours or using the two actors who read the text had not been chosen at the outset, but came up during the editing, and I also went back to Liège a few times to make some new shots."
"I then showed the almost finished cut to Yannick Franck, with whom I had already worked, and he made a few suggestions for soundtracks. I did a rough sound edit and mix myself and Yannick then refined and mastered it. The colour grading was then done with Miléna Trivier, the credits and the English subtitles (which an English friend generously corrected) were done by Dérives."
"The film was shown in places devoted to the visual arts rather than cinema, and I took little care - far too little - of its distribution, partly because I am an outsider to the world of cinema and I don't know how to go about it, and partly because as time goes by, it is becoming increasingly burdensome for me to take care of my own promotion."
(c) All visual material is used with the filmmaker's permission.