Peaky Blinders director Tim Mielants’ film debut follows a grieving handyman on a mission to find his prized hammer, unfolding in a nudist camp without sexualising the exposed flesh
Movies of people not wearing clothes are quite common in some corners of the internet. Patrick, on the other hand, is one of the more sophisticated, idiosyncratic films to receive a “Great Nudity!” verdict on Mr Skin. The Belgian arthouse comedy, which is out on VOD during lockdown, unfolds in a nudist camp yet doesn’t sexualise the rampant flesh on display. In fact, it’s the opposite. Even though something’s often dangling in the bottom-half of the frame, it’s actually more distracting on the few occasions someone isn’t nude.
Tim Mielants, who directed and cowrote the film, prefers to call it his version of a costume drama. “The nudity works because it’s got nothing to do with sex,” he says over the phone two days before the film’s release. “I was trying to avoid extremely attractive people because I didn’t want to have a sexual component in the movie.”
Patrick (or De Patrick, as it’s known in Belgium) was inspired by Mielants’ own memories of the summer of 85 – an apparently cinematic season. The Belgian director, who was six years old at the time, was taken by his parents to a nudist camp in the Pyrenees. “The absurdism stayed with me,” he explains. “The owner of the camp was blind, and she didn’t know people were walking around naked. There were terrorists (from the separatist group ETA). It was totally bonkers.” Wait, terrorists? Mielants confirms I didn’t mishear. “But there was this handyman called Patrick…”
The Patrick of Patrick is also a handyman. Played by Kevin Janssens, Patrick is a socially awkward manchild who lives and works on a naturist colony and mostly keeps to himself – until, one day, his father dies, and the grieving caretaker embarks on an obsessive hunt for a missing hammer. It’s like the five stages of grief, except they all involve nudity and a quest for a missing DIY tool.
For the role, Janssens, who’s known in Belgium as an action hero, put on 17kg in seven weeks. It was a last-minute decision that wasn’t part of the script. But whereas Ryan Gosling was sacked from The Lovely Bones when he turned up overweight without permission, Janssens consulted Mielants ahead of time. “I’d never been chubby before,” Janssens tells me over the phone from Antwerp. “I usually do a lot of sport. But I stopped everything. I started eating shitty things. Very quickly, it was difficult to get out of bed. I was so depressed all the time. I started to walk and breathe differently.”
To speed up the transformation, Janssens read up on how Colin Farrell altered his physique for The Lobster. “Colin put Häagen-Dazs in the microwave and drunk it. It tastes gross and disgusting – but the fat builds up quickly! Then during the shoot, I had to keep the weight on and keep on eating. Not only in a physical way but in a mental way, it’s very hard. But it helped the performance. Patrick’s a very closed personality and there’s a lot of mystery to him.”
Original publication 20 November, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 2nd December 2020
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