Setting the scene: a Flemish hamlet in Belgium has been recreated inside the former steel facility in Esch/Schifflange
Photo: Mike Zenari
Visitors to the now defunct Schifflange steel mill will have been faced with a surreal sight this summer. Deep in the heart of the ancient industrial landscape was a circus, complete with wagons and big top, and a Flemish hamlet--scenery for the latest movie to be shot there, “Rain Anyway”.
The €2.5 million budget feature from Belgian director Gust Van den Berghe, co-produced with Films Fauves, follows Lucien, a human magnet living in Flemish Belgium during World War I, who runs away from home and is picked up by a circus. The film blends magic and realism, to tell a nostalgic and heartwarming tale and recreate the circus world.
So far, so normal. But what makes this film unusual is that the lead actor has no film background and is drawn directly from the circus milieu. Danny Ronaldo, pictured below, continues a family tradition begun by his great, great, great grandfather, touring the world with Circus Ronaldo.
Van den Berghe stumbled across him while scouting for original circus wagons for the film. He was struck by his performance and reportedly even tweaked the story to fit. “I’m used to sharing in front of large crowds in the theatre and circus… Being on camera is different to performing live because you can give something but you don’t know what they will do with it. It’s a relationship of trust,” Ronaldo said during a site visit on 14 August. The performer was so committed to the project, he even requested to sleep in the circus wagons between filming. He was prevented, however, for security reasons.
Photo: Mike Zenari
A family performance
Ronaldo is joined on camera by his children, who have bit parts in the film. Another traditional stage performer among the cast is Luxembourg strong man Georges Christen, known for his old-fashioned feats of strength. Here he plays Victor Vanko, a tough guy bully of a character, which Christen says was a challenge to portray. “I have to remember I’m playing a role with no connection to myself,” Christen laughs, adding that all of the action scenes in the film were all real, “except for when a hammer lands on my head.”
Authenticity was clearly important for the director who has paid a great deal of attention to detail when recreating the Flemish countryside, right down to the trees, which were brought in and planted on the set.
While the crew has been told that “Rain Anyway” may be the last film shot at the steel mill, it is certainly not the first. Model maker Paul Biwer recently worked on “Invisible Sue”, shot on the same site. However, he said “Rain Anyway” was the first production there that involved building an entire set--other films had merely used the abandoned factory as the backdrop.
“It’s a great place to work, if you need something, you find it. There are loads of work tables around which helps when building the models,” he says.
Filming began in mid-July and was expected to end on 6 September, Film Fauves production assistant Manon Santarelli explained, adding it should be released in time for Cannes 2019.