Q&A with Marie Vandelannoote, director of Platinum award-winning “The Shroud”

Nominated ISA Best Film of the Month and awarded Platinum Best Fantasy Short in the round of August. “The Shroud“, by French director Marie Vandelannoote, is formally a gothic horror movie but it is more concerned to show our own fears than ghosts themselves, which turns it on a very singular drama. A mandatory short film.

The Shroud
The Shroud

In the early 20’s, in Brittany, nothing separates the fantasy world from the real world. By trying to make fun of old legends, the young Katic will learn to her regret that one should never mock the dead. This is the story that Marie Vandelannoote follows in “The Shroud” based on a legend written by Anatole le Braz. Besides film director, Marie is a screenwriter, producer, editor, and radio host. She began her career in a radio station in 1996 in Lyon. She’s been writing for television and video games for 13 years, and also regularly writes for literary magazines in France. In 2008, she wrote the short film “Homeless” directed by Yannis Cacaux. In 2015, she wrote “Le syndrome Doris Day” directed by Clément Bernard and, in 2016, she wrote, produced, edited and directed “The End of the Movie”.

Marie Vandelannoote
Marie Vandelannoote

ISA: How do you describe “The Shroud”?

Marie Vandelannoote: “The Shroud” is an old-school fantasy/horror film, based on an ancient Breton legend. It’s a gothic movie that wishes to be a tribute to Maupassant or Poe stories.

ISA: What made you decide to make this film?

MV: “The Shroud” was born two years ago, while I was making researches for another script I was writing. I read by chance a retranscription of an old legend called “La Jeune-fille au linceul” (The Young Girl With the Shroud) written by Anatole le Braz. This story immediately talked to me, because beyond the scary elements of this legend, all the dramatic potential that was inside and the family background gave me a strong will to make it live on a screen. And I have to admit that I’ve always had a thing for Celtics legends.

ISA: Besides the explicit story you tell, what did you want to tell to the audience with “The Shroud”?

MV: “The Shroud” is not just another ghost story. It’s a movie about family, its malfunctions and their consequences. It’s a filial love story, consumed by incomprehension, intolerance and rejection. The ‘monster’, or the ghost or whatever you want it to be, is never shown. Because the real monster, the really, really scary one, is inside of them (and by extension, inside us). It’s inside all the movie’s characters: it’s Katic’s family and friends, their selfishness. That’s why sometimes I described it as a ghost, sometimes like a beast. Nobody really knows what it is. And that’s so much better this way. So personally, I think that “The Shroud” is more a drama movie than a scary movie.

ISA: How difficult is to to make the audience believe in the characters and feel emotionally linked with a short film?

MV: Trying to make the audience feel concerned about the characters is not an easy thing to do. I think you have to love them. You have to take care of them, to cherish them, regardless of their shortcomings and their qualities. You have to spend a lot of time with them like they were real, not fictional. If you can do that, and if you really can take care of them, the audience will feel it and love them too.

ISA: What are your inspirations?

MV: I’m a great admirer of old horror movies like “The Innocents”, “Village of the Damned”, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, “Eyes Without a Face”, and so many of them. So I really wanted to borrow from these old movies, and mainly stayed focused on the story, the characters, the sound design and all that makes the gothic ambiance of the film.

The Shroud
The Shroud

ISA: How long was the shooting and which were the main challenges on the set?

MV: We shot the film during 7 very intense nights in the middle of February. So I’d say the biggest challenges was the coldness! It was really hard, especially for the actors. But it as necessary to shoot in the middle of winter and at night to capture this peculiar mood. Everything is different at night. With tiredness, every emotion is felt differently, more dramatically and that helped me to dig further into the actor’s emotions. It’s important to know that half of the movie was shot outside with no heating and that the rest was shot in the château de Paul Claudel in Brangues (France) that is a magnificent place full of history … but not heated as well! So the temperature could go really, really low. I was very impressed by the commitment and willpower of all the team, technicians and actors. They really gave all they had to make the best movie possible even regarding the harsh shooting conditions, the lack of time, the limited budget. So when you manage to overcome all of this, to put the movie before everything, it’s great.

ISA: What are your overall career goals and what’s next?

MV: I’m going to keep doing what I always did, writing stories and trying to make them live on screen. I’m currently working on a feature film based on a short story I wrote last year. It’s a horror movie inspired by an African legend, with sleep paralysis as a background and I’d like to adapt “The Shroud” as a feature film. I think it could be a fantastic full-length movie!

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