A young generation of filmmakers has started to assert itself in Luxembourg. It started with Jean-Claude Schlimm (House of Boys, 2009), Max Jacoby (Dust, also from 2009) and Beryl Koltz (Hot Hot Hot, 2011). However, what was missing from their films is local specificity: being set in Luxembourg or being in Luxembourgish, the local language. All three were made in English, or rather, Europudding English, and none of them was recognizably set in the Grand Duchy.
In 2012, director Christophe Wagner, who comes from a documentary background, made a policier that was set in the capital, Luxembourg City, and was mostly in Luxembourgish: Doudege wénkel (English title: Blind Spot). It was a huge box-office hit, selling more tickets than The Amazing Spider-Man, despite being quite conventional. What made the film so interesting for local audiences was simply to see ’themselves’ on screen and to hear people talk like they do.
Something similar was the case for the children’s film Schatzritter, d’geheimnis vum Melusina (Laura Schroeder, 2012), which also found a place in the top 25 most-visited films of the year.
2014 will see the release of not one but two features shot with Luxembourg money in the Grand Duchy and in Luxembourgish, one of the three official languages of the country (besides German and French) and the language most Luxembourgers use in their everyday lives.
Films in Luxembourgish are rather rare, and to my knowledge only one has ever been presented in Cannes: Hochzaeitsnuecht (‘Wedding Night’, Pol Cruchten, 1992). IMDb.com lists a grand total of 22 features in Luxembourgish, including the two 2014 titles, which thus make up almost ten percent of the total. They are Ouni d’hänn (‘Without Hands’, Donato Rotunno) and Mammejong (‘Mamma’s Boy’, Jacques Molitor), a second and first fiction feature respectively, though both directors have made documentaries. Both films are also about young people and the way they deal with love, so in a very concrete and direct way, it feels like these two films represent the coming-of-age of Luxembourgish-language cinema.
It was a long time coming, as the government started funding the cinema sector in the 1990s. But it took until now for the directorial and screenwriting talent to not only be ready but also realize that it pays to be as specific as possible — in terms of locations, stories, language… — in order to be more universal. Hopefully, it’s the start of a trend that’ll continue to grow and blossom, helping Luxembourg see and explore itself and, coincidentally, promoting it beyond its borders.
Boyd van Hoey (@filmboyd) is a Dutch freelance film critic based in Luxembourg and contributes to The Hollywood Reporter, Winq and de Filmkrant, among others