Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) is a traveling singer. At the nursing home, the concert has ended, and Marc takes the road. Shortly afterwards his car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

He is taken in by Mr. Bartel (Jackie Berroyer), an innkeeper who became psychologically fragile after his wife Gloria left him.

This is how Marc’s ordeal begins…


Fabrice du Welz, born 21 October 1972, studied at the Dramatic Arts Conservatory of Liege (Belgium) then and the INSAS, the cinema training institute of Brussels. Starting in 1990, he directed a number of films in Super 8. After his studies, he collaborated on comedy sketches for Canal+, “La Grande Famille”, “Nulle Part Ailleurs”. In 1999, he directed the short film Quand On Est Amoureux C'est Merveilleux, which won the Grand Prize of the Gerardmer Festival in 2001.

Calvaire (The Ordeal) is his first feature length film. The film premiered at the Critics’ Week at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2004.



How this film came to be?

I got the idea three years ago. Originally, the idea was to portray two male characters, one of whom would mistake the other one for his wife. But we did not manage to finish it. I finally realized that we didn’t have to explain everything, that it was better to keep it a little unclear and maintain a sense of mystery. I finally became able to easily and rapidly finish the screenplay. Then, and always with Romain Protat, we worked on the dialogue. It was only after that we came to the hardest part: finding the financing to produce the project.

Could you describe the principal character played by Laurent Lucas?

I wanted to avoid creating too much sympathy for the main character, the travelling singer, who is in fact the focus of madness, or desire of everybody else. All the characters around him covet him or want to love him absolutely, despite everything, desperately, violently. There are some similarities that unite them, that is, a brutality, a hardening, a madness. Marc Stevens, the singer (Laurent Lucas) is a sort of Tintin, almost asexual, who seems to embody and be the target of everyone’s fantasies. This character is fascinating in the sense that he is often physically present while at the same time is not always there. Whereas the others sick humanity is what becomes troubling and therefore interesting. And with Berroyer (Bartel) and Nahon (Robert Orton), playing with their physical resemblance, particularly amused me.

What personal need inspired this film?

At a gut level, it was simply the need to make films. The need to share this passion. I want to make feature films that are aggressive and poetic. It’s important that they take shape as I want them, as I imagine them. This feature film was difficult to produce, both in France and in Belgium. This was the deep desire to make a ‘survival’ horror film, a film where one has some fun with the landscapes, the crazy settings, the characters and their flaws.

The inspiration came with time, and the maturing was relatively slow. Actually, at the beginning I wanted to make a rather brutal type of film. But, going further than the basic survival type of horror film.

Your short film (Quand on est amoureux, c’est merveilleux) was in the realm of fantasy, this fantasy aspect is still present in Calvaire. What attracts you to this genre?

Calvaire, like Bunuel’s films, for example, falls undeniably in between fiction and reality. The fantastic genre is a good departure point to tell stories. This film is very close to a dream, a metaphor. When they are well done, films seem to me the best productions in the world. I have in mind such films as The Exorcist, Evil Dead, The Shining. There is nothing more brilliant in cinema, but, at the same time, I don’t think I want to make films like Calvaire all my life. I like genres, but also I like to transcend them.

How did you chose your actors?

At the beginning, Jackie did not originally seem right for the Bartel character, whom he does end up playing in the film. It was after reading the script that he proposed himself for this leading role. After we made several tests, the turmoil that came across convinced me. I saw him playing in the theatre directed by Planchon in a Bergman’s play. I have to admit that the richness of his creative palette impressed me. And as for Laurent Lucas, choosing him happened rather rapidly. I was looking for a young actor, with that air of being reserved yet at the same time very ambiguous. With Laurent, I also like his slipperiness and obscurity. As for Philippe Nahon, he’s ‘the Great Nahon’, a man with incredible power. Unfortunately, he is an underestimated actor. I invited Brigitte Lahaie to join our adventure because she is the perfect image of ‘Cinema Bis’. And Jean-Luc Couchard, in the role of Boris, is a long standing friend.

The film plays a lot on emotions. Is it a film about the difficulty of being loved?

Yes, it is probably a film about the complexity of loving and being loved. But is is also about faith and the blindness of love. The story I tell, this man who mistakes another man for his wife, is plausible. I remember that one day, in a nursing home where I went to see my grandmother, an old woman mistook me for her husband. Yes, it is a film about the desire to love or be loved.

Tell us what you did with the lighting?

Benoit Debie, my DP, is one of the ‘great’ DPs, even if he doesn’t know it yet. Benoit has a very special way to use light; he works a great deal with low lighting. He also dares to use complete darkness, which is very rare in Europe. For Calvaire, he and I had a very precise idea of what we wanted, at least for the exterior scenes and daytime interiors. We wanted no apparent light source for the interiors, (as Clint Eastwood’s films) which yields a contrasted light. We wanted to fully explore primary colours, as well as black and white. We wanted also to portray the Fagnes region in a beautiful way; an incredible part of Belgium (with a Siberian micro-climate and wild vegetation) where we shot the film.

Who were your influences?

I am very partial to off-beat films. Horror, popular, epic, funny with a preference for American and Asian productions. I am crazy about Wong Kar-wai, Larry Clark, Peckinpah, Bunuel, Ford, Andre Delvaux and many others…I like their upfront style. For Calvaire, in particular, there is one work that was particularly in my mind: Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This film traumatised me. It is thanks to this film that I discovered Hitchcock, Bunuel, and all the ‘innovative’ cinema of the 70’s. It’s a film that woke me up and got me interested in a lot of artists like Bacon, Hopper…

How do you think female viewers will react to

Well, I realise my film could go over badly, even very badly. Though personally, I really think the film is feminist. It is a brutal work, like Deliverance or Straw Dogs, for example. For sure, some won’t like this film. I just wanted to go all the way with the desire to tell a story. I think that Calvaire has a ‘fable’ aspect. Several characters could be the protagonists of a fairy tale: the smuggler, Boris…



Laurent Lucas got his start in 1989, when he studied acting with the Charles Dullin school, before becoming one of the most promising students at Strasbourg’s Theatre National (TNS), where he began an impressive dramatic career. He appeared first on screen opposite Jeanne Balibar in J’ai Horreur De L’Amour (1996), in which he gave an impressive performance as a character with HIV. He want on to play alongside Guillaume Depardieu in Pola X (1997) by Leos Carax. In 1998, he made two films with Karin Viard: he played her brother in La Nouvelle Eve and then her lover in Haut Les Coeurs! a performance for which he was cited at the Cesar Awards for Best Upcoming Male Actor. His breakthrough role came as a young father whose family life is devastated in Harry, He's Here To Help. In 2002, he played the boyfriend of Marina De Van in In My Skin. In 2003, he presented three films at the Cannes Festival: Tiresia, Who Killed Bambi? and Va Petite! Most recently he has appeared in Harry, He's Here To Help,
director Dominic Moll’s latest film, Lemming.


Until he was 25, Jack Berroyer was a technical draughtsman. A passionate lover of music, particularly rock, he studied the trumpet as a hobby. His family wanted him to go into government service, but he became a rock critic in 1975 for ‘Charlie Hebdo’. A regular contributor to ‘Hara Kiri’, ‘Liberation’ and ‘Actuel’, he wrote three novels: ‘Jai beaucoup souffert’, ‘Je vieillis bien’ and ‘La femme be Berroyer est plus belle que toi, connasse’, which was adapted as a film Tempete Dans Un Verre D'Eau (1996), in which Berroyer played the leading role. Scriptwriter and sometime consultant, he became an actor by chance. Inconclusive screen tests for A Nos Amours by Maurice Pialat, and minor roles in the early 90’s: Les Gens Normaux N'ont Rien D'Exceptionnel brought him to the attention of the public, who otherwise him as an entertainer on Canal+. His first starring role came with Pascal Bonitzer’s Encore, a very wry portrayal of the torments of an intellectual couple. In Je Ne Vois Pas Ce Qu’on Me Trouve he played a babbling and touching character. Overcoming his legendary hesitation, L’Annonce Faite A Maruis, gave him his first substantial role. In 2002, he starred in Denis Parent’s first film, Rien Que Du Bonheur, and joined Herve Palud, Christian Clavier and Michel Serrault in Albert Est Mechant. He recently published a collection of short stories entitled ‘J’ai beaucoup souffert de ne pas avoir de mobylette’


Philippe Nahon’s first screen role came in 1961 with Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Doulos. The revolutionary effervescence of the 70’s lead him to act in political films such as Les Camisards (1970) and Le Pull-Over Rouge (1979). His talent for portraying both sinister or ordinary looking charasters won him numerous blue-collar roles, including Les Anges Gardien (1995), Les Colours Du Temps – Les Visiteurs 2 (1997) and Le Poulpe (1998). Playing the policeman in La Haine or even the villain in Sauve-Moi (1999) seem to be the type of roles in which he excels. The defining role of his career came with Gaspar Noe’s I Stand Alone (1997), where he played a disturbingly desperate racist butcher. Since the early 90’s, Philippe Nahon has been aligned with a younger generation of French directors: Gaspar Noe, Mathieu Kassovitz, (La Haine, The Crimson Rivers), Jacques Audiard (A Self Made Hero), Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf). Recently he has appeared in Gaspar Noe’s provocative Irreversible, Alexandre Aja’s Switchblade Romance and Nickle and Dime by Sam Karmann.

Calvaire opens at the Odeon, Panton Street, London on Wednesday the 9th of December.

Material courtesy of Tartan Films.

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