'Close': Lukas Dhont On Why You Should See His Oscar-Nominated Film This Weekend

The last eight months have been pretty remarkable for Lukas Dhont. After bursting on the global film scene with “Girl” in 2018, the Belgian filmmaker returned to the Cannes Film Festival with his sophomore effort, “Close.” That heartbreaking drama won the Grand Prix (effectively coming in second) and was quickly scooped up by A24. After causing AMPAS members at the Telluride Film Festival to sob, “Close” won numerous festival honors around the globe, took the NBR Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and landed five European Film Award nominations. And on Tuesday morning, Dhont became an Academy Award nominee after “Close” earned an International Film Oscar nomination in a year that saw several highly lauded films not make the cut.

READ MORE: “Close” is an exquisite tale of childhood heartbreak [Cannes Review]

The film initially centers on two young teenagers, Leo (Eden Dambrine) and Remi (Gustav De Waele), who are the best of friends. Not only are they friends, they have an emotional intimacy rarely seen in boys, but one their parents refreshingly support. When they enter a new level of school, their peers don’t take kindly to their relationship, which leads to heartbreak.

Dhont jumped on the phone on Oscar nomination morning to discuss his nomination and why audiences in America should see it in theaters beginning this weekend.


The Playlist: What was your reaction to the nomination this morning?

Lukas Dhont: So, I was of course in front of the live broadcast and just hoping for it and wishing. And then when I actually heard the name of our film, “Close,” and Belgium, I jumped up in the air. It was this enormous feeling of thankfulness, actually, that this film about the beautiful, tender bond between two 13-year-olds is up there with all these incredible films. And this is an important piece to us. It’s one from the heart, for the heart. And this is Belgian’s eighth Oscar nomination, but we never won one, so I feel like the whole country is celebrating with us today. I’ve received so many calls and so many messages. And yeah, I called my parents, of course. They have been with me on this journey ever since I’m 13. I’m so happy that they have been so patient with me because I’ve been running around the house with a camera, following them everywhere as the actors of my first film. And so they know that this is my childhood dream. This is my childhood dream, and there’s nothing as powerful and as strong to get so close to that.

What does it mean to you to now be up there in the realm of great Belgian directors who’ve been nominated in this category?

Yeah, I mean, I’m incredibly proud of our country. There have been great filmmakers who have come before me, like the brothers Dardenne, like Felix van Groeningen. I’m incredibly thankful for filmmakers like Chantal Akerman, who showed me the way, who showed me that I could use cinema, not as a tool to disappear in or escape reality, but to confront the reality and the way that I looked at the world at a young age. All these codes and expectations and norms that were put upon my body just because of the society that we live in. So, I feel honored and I know that it’s a privilege because there are so many beautiful films, incredible films, out there that never get that amount of recognition, that don’t get that visibility. I’m inspired and I’m happy to be a part of that group of filmmakers that are giving our country that visibility.

Have you spoken to Eden or Gustav this morning?

Yes, I have FaceTimed them immediately. They were, of course, just out of school, which is really funny because they had to leave class just to get the news and celebrate it. So, their whole classroom was just jumping up and down. Their teachers were jumping up and down. It’s something that, of course, they collectively now lived with their schools and their classes and their peers, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. Their performances in this film are extraordinary. They really represented this young friendship, like so many of us have experienced. They have given everything for this film. We rehearsed for six months, and I think what they achieve in this film is extraordinary. So, yeah, I’m really happy that I’ll be able to bring them to the states and that they’ll be able to experience this moment together with us, like we have been on this journey ever since May, ever since Cannes.

Well, I was going to ask about that. I don’t know how many tickets you get, but are they planning to come, and who is your personal guest?

I’ve been dreaming about this ever since I was young so there’s many people along the way who have made this possible. I feel like bringing them. I mean, my brother is my producer, my parents, this artistic team, without them this film would never be what it is today. I feel like, yes, of course, these two young protagonists absolutely need to be there, as well as the adult actors that have helped them shape their parts. I’m thinking, of course, Émilie Dequenne and Léa Drucker and all the others. And I really want this to be a moment that we experience collectively. Making a film is a collaboration, and so I feel like experiencing that moment together. And of course also with A24 who has been so wonderful and who has this family of filmmakers that I truly and deeply admire. And so being able to experience that moment together with them is a powerful sensation.

You made history for A24. You’re their first International Film nominee, so congratulations on that.

Yeah. When I heard the news that they wanted to buy this film in Cannes, I was really deeply honored. And I’m as honored that we get to be their first International Film nominee. Thank you for reminding me. It truly is a great honor.

You’re also finally in theaters in the US this weekend. What would be your pitch moviegoers out there, not to see “M3GAN” for a second time? Why should they go see “Close”?

Well, I think “Close” is a film about all the big emotions in life. It’s a film that transports us back to this young friendship. That relationship is at the core of all of our lives, and we have all felt heartbreak linked to friendship, and yet haven’t always seen it expressed through the prism of cinema. I think that there’s this possibility of catharsis also through the film. I think this film touches on moods that we carry with us from childhood and that maybe, by experiencing this film, we are confronted by, to then eventually maybe be transformed by and sort of land them somewhere, look them in the eyes, and confront them. And next to that, It’s a film about bruising and healing, and it’s a film that was made with a lot of love, from the heart for the heart, with two central performances of 13-year-olds that are incredible. And yeah, I think everybody should go watch it and experience it for themselves and see what they find in there.

“Close” is now playing in limited release.