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Home page > Interview-Portrait > Coulier, Gilles (3 June 2010)

Gilles Coulier Director of Iceland (Ijsland) - Cinéfondation

Your father said no! I mean...yes! 
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by Damien Rayuela

Approaching Gilles Coulier was just as easy as I’d come to expect when meeting Belgian directors. I’d never been disappointed when walking the floor of the Belgian terrace, always feeling right at home thanks to their warm sense of welcome. And so it is for Gilles. As an illustration of the very specific mentality that reigns there, let me tell you about the very first thing he was worrying over when we came in: the fact that our right hands had not yet been filled with a refreshing beer.

Initially, Gilles Coulier didn’t intend to get into cinema. Although he’d always wanted to make or perform in films, his teachers encouraged their good pupil to study economics. More specifically, his father did not want his kid to undergo a premature nose-dive right after the takeoff; he knew plenty who had tried to make a living from the silver screen, only to eventually get dismissed from the Selection. Because of his father’s influence, Gilles gave up and forgot about cinema, fortunately not for a long time though. Economics wasn’t exciting enough for his already creative mind. As a result, it was his father’s turn to accept his boy’s ambition. With a first fail of the entry exam at the Rits school for audiovisual and performing arts, Gilles was about to throw in the towel. But this is not to mention that the examiner was a former colleague of the father, and not a friend… It was definitely the right moment for M. Coulier to boost his son for a second try. That is, briefly, how Gilles Coulier finally got into his third year at the Institut Saint-Luc in Brussels, one of the most famous Belgian institutions of cinema.

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What was he doing in Cannes? The answer is quite simple: he was presenting his third year final work, which was spotted by fellow Belgian Felix Van Groeningen (who has himself done very well since his feature The Misfortunates won acclaim in the Directors’ Fortnight last year). Iceland is a smooth and silky tale which completely emerges the spectator in an offbeat universe. This was not an easy task, as the story takes place in Ostend, a quite dull place on the coast of his home country. Nevertheless, he managed to disorient the Belgian guy in me with his clever moves and spellbinding shots. Keep an eye on this lad - Lynch’s spiritual son might have entered the scene.

By Olivier Croughs

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