Marion Hänsel, the Belgian filmaker of the intimate.
Marion Hänsel was born in Marseille in February 1949. The third in a family of six children, she spent her childhood in Antwerp. Feeling herself to truly be an artist at heart at the age of five, she refused to go to school for a year and dropped out of secondary school at 16 to devote herself to poetry and drawing. Her parents supported her choices and she would go on to become an outstanding director.
At the age of 18, she entered the Institute of Media Arts (IAD) but soon left for New York, where she joined Lee Strasberg's Actors' studio.
Once back in Europe, she began her career playing small roles in Agnès Varda's films, including 'L'une chante, l'autre pas' (One Sings, The Other Doesn't). This courageous, thorough, self-taught woman very quickly became a director and founded her own production company. In 1982, she directed her first feature film, "Le lit" (The Bed), based on the novel by Dominique Rolin, a film that won her the Cavens Award. Two years later, this literature enthusiast adapted J-M Coetzee's novel 'In the Heart of the Country', which became the film Dust, featuring Jane Birkin. The film, shot in South Africa, deals with father-daughter relationships and won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, a first for a Belgian director.
Another key film in her filmography, which includes around fifteen films, is "Les Noces Barbares" (The Cruel Embrace), an adaptation of Yann Queffélec's novel and winner of the 1985 Goncourt Prize. The film takes a highly sensitive look at the issue of unloved childhood.
These films say as much about the journey into the most intimate part of the being and its relationships as they do about the journey to the end of the world, from Africa to the Bay of Hong Kong, from Italy to the Pacific. Her films show moments from life, its torments, its roots. There is a certain nostalgia for the past, sometimes mixed with the urgency of the present, as seen in her last films, which present her personal experience: "Sur la terre comme au ciel" (Between Heaven and Earth), which deals with motherhood, "Nuages, lettre à mon fils" (Clouds: Letter to my Son) about the departure of a son, and the last film, "Il était un petit navire" (There Was a Little Ship), which combines archive images and autobiographical anecdotes. It is a kind of farewell message.
Marion Hänsel passed away on 8 June 2020 at the age of 71, leaving behind her a poetic body of work that touched everyone's soul and allowed Belgian cinema to travel beyond our borders