News from the Locarno Festival

Alex vs. The Dutch Duelists

Schneider vs. Bax – Alex van Warmerdam



Mr van Warmerdam, congratulations on your selection in the official competition in Locarno. Would you agree to the definition that Schneider vs. Bax is a contemporary Western? Was it a conscious starting point for you, to think about the conflict and structure of Westerns?

A Western I didn’t have in mind, but the principle of the western – a man alone in a landscape with a rifle, and then another man, also with a rifle – has always had my interest. Because it is pure cinema, there's no dialogue involved. I wanted to do something with a contract killer, a lake, a lot of reeds. The western is intrinsic in this idea. Reeds and water can be seen as a substitute of the prairie, and a contract killer is in fact a bounty hunter. But Schneider vs. Bax is also a comedy of errors, bad luck and coincidence.

Can you tell me something about the choice of locations for this film? I know they are very personal for you, but at the same time they could metaphorically represent the fact that we are all 'swamped' in our lives.

When it comes to metaphors, I'm absolutely innocent. I never think in metaphors, they are simply not in my style. And if metaphors appears in a film of mine it is always the others that makes me aware of it.
The choice of the reeds as location is because I know them very well, I was almost born in it. Reeds make a noise when you run through them. You are invisible in the reeds, but not quite. When you’re in a reed field, reed is chaotic, especially in the sun, thousands of little shadows. You easily get lost in the reeds; you lose your bearings. Reeds are a visually attractive obstacle.

Underneath the surface, we can hint at the psychology of the two main characters and their back stories, and yet they all simply seem like people with a job to do. Did you try to represent the fact that under the surface, there is a monster in everyone?

No, not at all. Maybe it’s there, but I am not to blame. I just tried to keep the story simple and dry, without a moral judgement, and bring the characters to life with action, not too much dialogue, and only a presumption of their background.

There's drugs, violence, cheating and killers, and yet, the one evil word everyone agrees on is child murderer. Is this the only crime left, while all the rest is by now accepted?

An interesting thought, but again, I didn’t have this in mind during the writing.
Schneider refuses the job. How can Mertens persuade Schneider to liquidate Bax?  By saying that Bax is a child murderer. I also liked the word, especially in Dutch – kindermoordenaar. That sounds really heavy.

Would you say that Schneider and Bax represent two souls of your Country, the intellectual gone-to-seed, a survivor of the 60s and 70s, and the practical, get-the-job-done professional with the nice family, but ready to do the most outrageous things in return?

I fully agree.

Borgman was the first Dutch film in competition in Cannes in a long time. Are you happy about being in Locarno with Schneider vs. Bax, and what do you enjoy the most about participating in International film events?

Yes, I’m happy about being in Locarno. For me it is important to get feedback on my films outside my own Country. And Locarno seems to me like a good place for that, because it is a serious International festival with focus on non-commercial cinema.

Massimo Benvegnù

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