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March 20, 2014 | posted in Filmmakers
Bart Van den Bempt’s tumultuous flight home to Belgium from Kyrgyzstan ignited his initial storyboard of what would become his first feature-length film, “82 Days in April.”
“People were really in panic, and to ease my mind,” he says. “I started to think about my parents and how I hoped they would cope with my death if it would eventually all go wrong. I could imagine them traveling to gorgeous Kyrgyzstan to reconstruct the final happy weeks of my life.”
In prior years, travel by boat made a lasting impression on Bart before he embarked on his career in film.
“My father worked for a shipping company in Antwerp, and I had worked there on summer holiday since I was 16 years old,” Van den Bempt recalls. “When I graduated film school at 26, I had the opportunity to take a boat from Belgium via Israel to Singapore. After many months in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Malaysia, I was in North Burma and running out of money.”
To prolong his homecoming, he boarded another ship in Singapore to continue his travels to Australia, New Zealand, Panama, USA, Canada, and the UK. “It was a formative experience, and many things I did afterwards were somehow related to this experience. My love for slow-travel over land is one of them.”
To tell the story of Herman and Marie, a couple retracing the steps of their son’s last cross-country journey before an accident took his life, Turkey served as the ideal backdrop for Van den Bempt as he had visited many times throughout his travels.
“I wanted to use the landscape as a metaphor for the relationship between my two main characters,” he says. “We shot the winter part near the Iranian border and the spring part near the Syrian Desert. The loneliness of these desolate places reflects the state of mind of the two parents. They are lost in a sometimes beautiful, sometimes drab world, but it is their deceased son who sort of leads their path.”
Beyond the visual setting, Van den Bempt encourages audiences to listen carefully to the music score of the film, composed by Norwegian jazz trumpet player Arve Henriksen.
“I discovered his work by coincidence during the writing of the script, and I used it as a background while working. Eventually, I found it seemed to match the text perfectly. We contacted Arve, and he almost immediately agreed to work with us. The fact that he was involved from such an early stage benefited the result. For me, the music of Arve is like the soul of 82 Days in April.”
Whether by plane, boat, or theater cushion, Van den Bempt’s request is a simple one. “I just invite the viewer to be taken on a trip. I hope they come on board and experience something in those 90 minutes of their lives that they give to me.”
— Amy Kersey
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