As I am a Monty Python fan I love the celebrated British sense of absurd humour. That’s why I can stand a crazy story by the Flemish author and comic Hugo Matthijsen. He has an absurd column in a Flemish magazine for young people. He also writes screenplays for funny television series and radio programmes. I was very happy when I found two of his old collections of absurd short stories in the library. Some are extremely idiotic.
I found the story of the little weirdo who cajoles you into buying you a potato in one of his collections. I adapted it into a screenplay, but I still had to find a suitable end for my movie which was not easy. I talked about this fantastic piece of humour to some of my clubmates. But unfortunately they thought it was not funny at all. Of course I was very disappointed. Maybe I had told the story in the wrong way. Maybe I am not a good narrator.
I left the idea for some time, but I could not get it out of my mind. I told Leo Lintermans, the little man who plays the role of crackpot in my film. And guess what! It was bingo! He was excited! He would love to star in my film A Bargain? Leo and I went looking for another two actors. We found Sofie and her husband. They are a friendly couple and they are members of a drama club. They were willing to join us. They, too, were very enthusiastic. One evening we came together and tried out the dialogue. We felt if it was all feasible. The story was fascinating enough. We had a lot of fun. We laughed a lot.
I didn’t want the dialogue to sound
“brushed down”. And I didn’t want the actors to speak dialect
either. I preferred a mix of both as it’s important that the words
are spontaneous. I gave the actors the freedom to change the
structure of some sentences and I offered them the opportunity to do
some practice. After some time it all seemed OK to me. I recorded
the rehearsals and rewrote the lines as preferred by the actors.
This working method seemed to be very efficient. In the end their
acting was super.
When Willy Van der Linden encouraged me to take part in BIAFF I had my doubts. I hesitated to submit my film. I thought that some lines could be misinterpreted. I feared that the subtitles would not create the right feelings as the English are not used to reading subtitles. Apparently I was wrong.
It was not difficult to find the right location. We knew a lady who was in charge of a church. She asked us what kind of film we were going to make. We assured her that we would not ridicule the institute of the church. But she remained skeptical. Though eventually she even played a supporting role in the film. Do you remember the scene in the street? People gathering to make a bid? She was one of them. And she offered a fine price!
The street scene was the most difficult part of shooting. I had asked many people to come. They were all in time. But in the distance we noticed heavy clouds heading towards us. There was some thunder and forked lightning. We hoped that the sound of thunder would not interfere with our dialogue. That would cause a problem when editing the film. Dubbing would be necessary in that case. Also the light changed considerably. Suddenly it was raining cats and dogs. We found shelter in a pub. You may think that this offered a welcome break, but I had to offer everybody a drink. How long would it last? That was the question.
After a while some people told me that they had to be home at a certain time. And what about the shoot? Images of a wet street surface mixed with images of a dry surface? I already thought of postponing the session because I wanted to make an outstanding film. Everything had to be credible! Everything had to be correct! But the courage sank into my shoes. It was not funny anymore. Eventually it stopped raining. That was quite a relief! Our feelings of stress ebbed away and after a short time everything was in the can.
Of course my film was made to make the audience laugh, but in our clubhouse hardly anybody laughed at it. My clubmates didn’t even understand why I had made this so-called “comedy”. They were only impressed by the drone-shot. I wondered if the humour was too absurd to enjoy it. That could be the reason. I feared the worst results at competitions. But… A Bargain? was successful at the regional and national competitions in Belgium. Thanks to its humoristic aspects? I don’t think so.
I must confess something. This fantastic result at BIAFF was also a big surprise for me. And above all I am extremely happy that I have won the award for “best editing” and in particular the award for …“best comedy”!
Long live the British sense of humour!