Still a student, Anemone Valcke has been extremely fortunate with the parts she has landed. Her short list of credits only includes two internationally acclaimed titles: Moscow, Belgium and Oxygen, as well as Bo. In Peter Monsaert’s feature debut Offline, she takes a new step in her blossoming career. She plays the female lead.
Text Lisa Bradshaw | Portrait Bart Dewaele
Anemone Valcke’s list of film credits might be short, but it could hardly be more impressive. As a teenager, she landed her first film role in director Christophe Van Rompaey’s Moscow, Belgium, which went on to screen at Cannes Critics’ Week, winning the SACO for screenwriting, the ACID/CCAS distribution prize and the Grand Rail d’Or in 2008. This was followed by a small part in Hans Herbots’ Bo.
Then in 2010, she was cast opposite the lead in Hans Van Nuffel’s Oxygen, which, since its Grand Prix and Jury Award at Montréal, has gone on to win 15 prizes worldwide, including a Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Valcke at the Flemish Film Awards.
That was all it took for Flemish director Peter Monsaert to cast Valcke as the lead in his debut feature Offline. The now 21-year-old is set to become one of Flanders’ leading ladies, in a role that is a far cry from her smart and sassy characters in her previous films.
‘I’m really nervous about what people’s reaction to it will be,’ says Valcke from her home in Ghent, where she was born and raised and is still attending the KASK Academy of Arts. 'I’ve never played the main character in a film, and I’ve never put so much of my heart and soul into a role. I’m going to feel very vulnerable when the film opens. Sometimes when I think about it, my heart starts racing!'
‘At this point, it’s not really about the money but about the projects. I didn’t know that the films I’ve done would be so internationally successful – that just comes with the territory. I’m very grateful that those films were so well received’ – Anemone Valcke
drama with comic elements
In Offline, which is scheduled to open this autumn, Valcke plays a university student who works on the side for a sex-cam website. ’She thinks she’s a very independent and mature girl, who rationalises doing the work to pay for school. She’s just a normal student who does everyday things, but when she works, she turns into a totally different person.’
A bit like acting? Yes, says Valcke, but ‘she’s not aware that she’s doing it. She thinks she’s untouchable, like she’s not vulnerable. But she really is. She has the need to be loved – by her parents, for instance, but she still pushes them away. That’s why I was really interested in the role – because she’s full of contradiction.’
The film is definitely a drama, but not without comic elements. Flemish actor Wim Willaert, a character TV and film actor known for his roles in Ex Drummer and 22nd of May, plays an ex-con who comes across Vicky on the Internet. ‘He’s a very comical kind of actor, both on the set and off,’ says Valcke, ‘so some of the dialogue is funny; it’s a beautiful balance in the script.’
Valcke compares working with writer/director Peter Monsaert to working with Christophe Van Rompaey on Moscow, Belgium. ‘Christophe is very good at directing actors,’ she says. ‘He feels it; he has a lot of passion around it. Peter is also an actor, mostly in theatre, so he is also really committed to the actor.’
She realises she’s been very lucky with the parts she has landed in her short career. ‘Because I’m still studying, I’ve had the advantage of being able to choose the parts I find most interesting,’ she says. ‘At this point, it’s not really about the money but about the projects. I didn’t know that the films I’ve done would be so internationally successful – that just comes with the territory. I’m very grateful that those films were so well received.’
'I’ve never played the main character in a film, and I’ve never put so much of my heart and soul into a role. I’m going to feel very vulnerable when the film opens. Sometimes when I think about it, my heart starts racing!' – Anemone Valcke
Offline, like Moscow, Belgium – in which Valcke played the outspoken daughter of a 40-something woman dating a 20-something man – was shot in her home town of Ghent. Both directors also come from Ghent, and it is also home to Valcke’s mother, who is a stylist for television and film. ‘She was more concerned than happy for me that I wanted to be an actress. She suggested that I study psychology at university,’ Valcke smiles. ‘It’s true, Flanders is a small place to do this job. But I decided when I was eight years old that I wanted to be an actress, and I staged scenes to act out with friends and for my parents. I was really busy with it.’
As she is now. After our conversation, Valcke is off to the city of Mechelen to shoot a comedy sketch show for television, starring mostly women. To air later this year, the show features some of Flanders’ finest actresses, including Els Dottermans (Love Belongs to Everyone) and Gilda De Bal (The Misfortunates). It’s exceptional company to be in, and ‘it’s very fun to do,’ says Valcke. ‘I did the pilot last year, and the rehearsals have been a really good time.’
In fact, Valcke could use a good time right now, as she’s still missing her film ‘family’ after wrapping Offline last autumn. ‘I felt a real sadness when shooting on Offline finished,’ she says. ‘You can fall into a bit of a black hole when a film project ends because you miss seeing this one group every day; you become like a big family. But I never felt like that when a project ended before.’ (i)