Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Saturday, 30 August 2008 16:26 UK

Director defends tsunami thriller

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Venice

The Belgian director of a new thriller about parents bereaved by the Asian tsunami has defended his use of the 2004 disaster as a plot device.

Vinyan
Vinyan is being screened out of competition at Venice

Speaking at the Venice Film Festival, Fabrice du Welz said he had taken pains to ensure the tragedy was depicted "artistically and poetically".

"I know some people may be irritated but I think these subjects have to be dealt with," he told the BBC News website.

Vinyan, which means "evil spirit" in Thai, stars Emmanuelle Beart and Rufus Sewell as a Western couple in Phuket who refuse to accept their young son died in the deluge.

Believing he has been kidnapped, the pair venture into Burma on a quest that pits them against the elements, their guides and each other.

"For me the tsunami was a starting point," said du Welz. "I never asked if it was a good or a bad thing.

"My story is about a couple who have lost a child. I tried to deal with their sorrow with a certain distance and respect, without being melodramatic."

Ordeal

"I never felt we were being insensitive or treading on people's toes," said Beart, familiar to British audiences from her roles in Manon des Sources and Mission: Impossible.

Fabrice du Welz
Fabrice du Welz said he tried to handle the subject matter with "respect"

"Having seen Fabrice's first film, I realised he wouldn't deal with mourning and the loss of a child in a normal way."

Beart was referring to 2004 release Calvaire, a bleak thriller about a travelling entertainer who is tormented by the locals after becoming stranded in the Belgian countryside.

In similar fashion, Vinyan sees Beart and Sewell's characters receive a hostile reception from a tribe of children they encounter deep in the Burmese jungle.

The actress believes, however, that the couple's terrifying ordeal enables them to come to terms with their grief.

"For people in the West, death is a taboo - it's fearful and dizzying," said the 45-year-old actress. "In Thailand there is this idea that death is continuative.

"They believe certain souls have to be released because they're stuck between two levels. We, the living, are holding them back."

Arduous

Sewell did not journey to Venice to promote Vinyan, which is playing out of competition at this year's event and has yet to secure a UK distributor.

Emmanuelle Beart  in Venice
The film stars French actress Emmanuelle Beart

But the English actor received glowing praise in his absence from his French co-star, who said they had "stuck together" over what proved to be an arduous shoot.

"Over the course of the film our two characters take separate paths, but we never left each other really," she told the BBC News website.

"I found his sorrow very disquieting - he went into shadowy areas I didn't go into. I was more worried about him than me."

According to Beart, du Welz needed some convincing that she would be up to the rigours of shooting on location in Thailand.

"He needed to be persuaded I could be part of the film, not as a star but as a woman," she explained.

"Fabrice wanted to know if I could go on this journey with him, without a caravan, make-up artists and so on.

"That seemed strange to me as I'd never seen my profession in that way."


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