Versatile Belgian actress Virle Betts, known for her fiery turn as a bluegrass-singing mother whose daughter falls ill in the Oscar-nominated “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” joins the Sundance World Feature Competition with her provocative feature direction, “When It Melts.” gives ” A continuing portrait of the lasting effects of untreated trauma 21st January in cinema screens.
What drew you to adapt Liz Spitt’s award-winning novel “The Melting”?
At first, it was a proposal made by a producer. I read the book and I was touched by young Eva’s desire to be valued, to be loved. As for the adult Eva, I’m sorry, but I found her difficult to grasp and thus fascinating. I know people who have been silenced and then silenced themselves. By making this movie I wanted to get closer to understanding people who have their pain buried deep inside them, where no one can see it and where it hollows them out in silence. … This is a revenge story on a human scale.
What were the challenges in adapting the book?
It was not easy. The book was written in three timelines and we brought them back to two. It was a question of distilling the most important ingredients. Of course it took six years in total, including our breaks. Co-screenwriter Maarten Loix and I wanted each character and their decisions to be human and in a way even understandable. Also, we made Eva a more active character. Last but not least, the book deals with some sensitive topics and it took us a long time to find the right balance of how far to go.
You’ve got some really compelling young performers.
None of the child actors had any acting experience except for young Tess (Eva’s younger sister). The casting process was very long and very intense, but a beautiful experience. They send the tape first. We narrowed them down and invited a few for face-to-face auditions. Again, we narrowed down [the field] And auditions began in the form of workshops. They will have acting lessons/games throughout the day where you will see them start to relax and pick things up, really playing with each other. They would have learned something and returned home. Each time, the team got smaller and smaller until the final cast was formed.
With the final cast we continue to workshop on acting, not using scenes from the movie, but scenes that touch/treat the same themes. Like scenes from “Lord of the Flies,” “Goonies,” “Girl Interrupted,” “American Beauty,” “Stand by Me,” etc. We spent a lot of time together to build trust between them and us. I started rehearsing the movie scenes with them a few weeks before the shoot.
How did you prepare the children to shoot the tragic event that haunts Eva?
Kids say it themselves scene, the sword of Damocles hanging above their heads. It was definitely a big thing. To begin with, at the time of shooting, they were all over 14. Rosa, who played Eva, was actually 16 years old at the time. He is the oldest of the bunch. We are fortunate to have found a genius who is less than 13 years old and still at an age where he can have a real conversation about it, reflect on it. Not only that, he read the book before coming to the audition.
I insisted on connecting the project with someone who was familiar with trauma. The psychologist was already involved in the final stages of the casting process. When we finally got our cast together, we talked to the kids and their parents. We read the script together and talked about their fears, their own lives and experiences and of course scene. Psychologists indicate what we should pay attention to for each child. shooting of scene By the end of the shoot, it was decided that they would be together all the time, becoming a tight and loving group.
We had three days to shoot it, so time to do it as gently as possible. Rosa was given an ear piece. While shooting the scene I would talk to him and tell him a story with different meanings. Also, when he was alone in the film, all the other actors would leave the room.
The psychologist was on set during the shooting of this scene and after every take he would take them to a game like Tetris or fruit cutting like Ninja or something. Anything that makes their mind work differently from what they just experienced. Apparently, this is how you avoid the trauma of settling down. Of course, it was intense; Heavy for all actors. But as there was trust, professional guidance and after care, it was managed in the best possible way.
What surprised you most about directing your first feature?
That was nice. As an actress you are always in a fragile position, always depending on the opinion of others and you need a sense of security to be able to do that work. It was nice that I knew that and I could try to give that, so that the cast could give their best. I felt like a parent, very attentive, very emotional.
What’s next for you? Do you want to continue writing and directing? What is your next acting job?
Yes! I am actually negotiating the adaptation rights of the play with an English writer. I can’t say much more about it, but I’m very excited to dive into it soon. I don’t know what my next acting job will be. I was so busy finishing the film that I didn’t get time to act. But I look forward to diving into part one soon.