Filmmaker Lukas Dhont came upon mine and many Oscar watcher’s radar when his feature debut, i won both the Caméra d’Or for Best First Feature Film and the Queer Palm in 2018. Dhont began his career in film as a teenager, working as a costume design assistant and directing his first short films in his early 20s.
When the trailer for Close dropped, having already shared another Cannes honor, the Grand Prix, I immediately knew we had a serious Best International Feature Film Oscar contender on our hands.
Close deals with familiar themes such as mental health, bullying and broken friendships but manages to do so in a way that feels highly original – with Dhont taking an intimate look into the deep admiration and love between two male teenagers as well as what can happen when pressures of conformity and perceived masculinity snap a seemingly unbreakable bond.
During our conversation Dhont expresses what it feels like to have received his first Oscar nomination, tying that into his early dreams of being a dancer. We also discuss the impact Close has had on queer audiences and whether or not he categorizes the film as LGBTQ. We talk about what it was like working with young actors Eden Dambine and Gustav De Waele, rehearsing for six months and then not allowing the actors to revisit the script once filming began.
Dhont also describes directing Dambrine and De Waele in the quieter moments without dialogue and how cinematographer Frank van den Eeden shot not only the incredible landscapes of the film, the opening scene in the generally masculine set piece of a bunker, but also managing to lens right into Dambrine’s soul in one of the most unsung and nuanced performances of 2023.
Close is nominated for International Feature Film, representing Belgium, at the 95th Academy Awards. It is currently in limited release in theaters and in the Academy virtual screening room.