Down By Dawn is a modern-day western set in the flatlands of Belgium, capturing a deeply rooted rural culture that is closely connected to my personal roots.
"Down By Dawn“ is the story of an elderly booze-addled man, who lives a banal, rural life repeating the same, systematic routine over and over.
Seeking escape from his drab existence he devours old spaghetti westerns–becoming spellbound by their protagonists. Inspired by their heroic, he embarks on a cross-country journey in a desperate attempt to track down a girl he once knew, willing to do whatever necessary to rekindle a long-lost love.
Surrounded by flatlands stretched to the horizon, in compositions drained of colour, Down By Down is an exercise in restraint – with a small cast, barely any dialogue and simple, yet effectual cinematography. Widescreen compositions emphasize the sparseness of the human presence in the film’s landscapes, and low angles were used to capture the full weight of the grey skies. The film’s interiors also needed to have a similar evocative, unshowy familiarity – staying faithful to the unostentatious cosy-functional aesthetic of rural Belgium.
The film’s subjects, nature and blood, are at once the humblest imaginable, and the most implicitly poetic. Confronted with death he fights to preserve some aspect of happiness, which manifests itself as a vivid memory of his childhood love.
The journey he embarks on serves to frame his existential anxieties: how insignificant his life can seem when measured against a bigger, wider world, and the risk of spending his last few years alone.