Re Dai Wang Shi (Are you Lonesome Tonight?): interview with Shipei Wen

Picture of the movie Re Dai Wang Shi (Are you lonesome tonight?) © DR


Presented in Special Screening, Chinese director Shipei Wen's first feature film, Re Dai Wang Shi (Are you lonesome tonight?), invites us to a nocturnal exploration of the dark corners of the soul, in search of forgiveness. Although he was unable to come to Cannes to present his film due to the health situation, he was still able to talk to us about his film.

Your first feature film is presented today in a Special Screening at Cannes. How do you feel about this film being discovered internationally?

It's like inviting friends to my house for dinner. It's the first time I've organised a party, but I've given it everything I could. We communicate through films, so I'm delighted that the film is finding an audience in Cannes.

What was the original inspiration for this film?

I had this character in mind that intrigued me: a man guilty of an unintentional crime who has the irrational urge to contact the victim's wife. Then a lot of questions emerged around the characters, and the film started to grow.

In this film you portray human beings in all their imperfections, the hidden corners of the soul, those that we dare not show in broad daylight… Is this ambivalence and complexity difficult to transcribe to the screen?

It's a real challenge. For me, it’s the ambiguity of the film  more than anything else that allows me to express myself. The complexity and ambiguity of humanity is the most interesting part for me.

«The complexity and ambiguity of humanity is the most interesting part for me»

The atmosphere of the film is very nocturnal, the colours very neon… What were your inspirations for the aesthetic of this film?

I draw most of my inspiration from early German expressionist paintings. We were very inspired by Francis Bacon's self-portraits, and we tried to use the cinematic tools in the same way that Bacon's brush depicts the distorted and oppressed side of the character. Expressionism also influenced the camera movements, the choice of colours and the subjective sound design.

What was it like working with a great actress, singer and director like Sylvia Chang, most recently seen in Bi Gan's Long Day’s Journey Into Night, presented at Cannes in 2018 as part of Certain Regard?

Sylvia  is a dear friend and a great mentor to me. We wrote the script with her in mind, and we were lucky to have her play the role of Mrs Liang. She is very supportive of young filmmakers. It was Bi Gan who introduced me to her and showed her my short film. On the set, she never looked at the playback and devoted herself entirely to the role and the moment.