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Belgian film Close loses out at Oscars but director proud of achievement

Close film - photo Kris Dewitte
13:19 14/03/2023

Belgian film Close, the heart breaking story of teenage friendship, guilt, longing and loss, may have missed out on this year’s Oscar’s but it continues to garner rave reviews by critics.

Director and screenwriter Lukas Dhont’s cinematic piece, lost out to the German film All Quiet on The Western Front in the best international film category at the 95th Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood.

The Netflix world war one drama also beat Argentina, 1985 (Argentina), Ireland’s The Quiet Girl and Polish entry EO to win the coveted Oscar in the category for non-English language films.

Despite the disappointment, Dhont acknowledged the film’s achievement in a video message directly after Sunday’s ceremony. "We are a super proud team," he said, accompanied by producer Michiel Dhont, actress Emilie Dequenne and young actors Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele.

"It was a fantastic evening. We are so happy to be there," added Dambrine. "It was magical," added Dequenne. "We took full advantage and that gives us one more reason to try again to win this Oscar," confirmed the 31-year-old director from Ghent.

Despite losing out, Close has already shared the Grand Prix prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. It also won the Sydney Film Prize and best international independent film at the British Independent Film Awards, as well as being the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards winner in the best foreign language film category.

Magritte Awards 2023

At the 2023 Belgian Magritte cinema awards earlier this month (pictured above), Close picked up seven awards, including best Flemish film.

The film’s young stars, Dambrine and De Waele - who play lead characters Leo and Remi - have received widespread praise from film critics. Writing in The New York Times, chief film critic AO Scott said Dambrine and De Waele were “wonderfully natural, conveying the complexities of youthful experience with impressive directness and poise.”

Peter Debruge of Variety magazine described Close as “a beautifully evocative film” and Mark Kermode, chief film critic for The Guardian newspaper, said the film was an “achingly poignant tale of the end of childhood friendship.” He added that the adult performances, including Kevin Janssens, Léa Drucker and Dequenne, were every bit as convincing as their young counterparts.

The film is the second critically-acclaimed movie by Dhont, following his 2018 film Girl, a story of a young transgender ballet dancer, which won the Camera D’Or and the Queer Palm at Cannes. Dhont is said to have drawn on his own experiences from his school days when he wrote the screenplay for Close and that in contrast to Girl, which largely explored femininity, he wanted to write a script that dealt with masculinity and its perceived dominance in modern day culture.

Close is showing in Belgian cinemas now.

Photos: Close © Kris Dewitte; Magritte Awards © MdC2023

Written by Kim Revill