John Shank, a Belgo-American filmmaker, is redrawing the outlines of neo-rural cinema. In L’HIVER DERNIER, his first feature, screened at the Venice Festival, he painted the portrait of a young farmer who questions the possibility of continuing to work his land the way his father and grandfather did before him, and, as a result, examined the place of man in this vast world. He is working for Versus on an adaptation of Andre Gide's La Symphonie Pastorale.
In his graduation film, UN VEAU...
John Shank was born in 1977 in Bloomington, Indiana. Shortly after, his parents returned to live in their home village. When John was six, they left the USA for Belgium where, without necessarily being farmers, they maintained a rural way of life, close to the land and to a community living on and off it. Partly by chance, after having only seen twenty or so movies in his life, John Shank enrolled at the IAD. A new world opened up to him and he discovered a new language that he immediately fell in love with.
In his graduation film, UN VEAU PLEURAIT, LA NUIT, Shank exposed his questions concerning the place of man in the natural world, in the universe, and the relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Metaphysical questions on bonds and the place of man in this vast world. Heralding L'HIVER DERNIER, the film showed a young farmer confronted with the loss of his father and with the question of heritage and survival of rituals. In his following film, LES MAINS FROIDES, he tackled a child's discovery of death on finding the body of a lamb. John Shank displays a strong desire to focus on another way of life, far from the urban world.
With L'HIVER DERNIER, he rooted his work in a troubled rural world and echoed his own origins. Johan, his main character, a young farmer at the head of a cattle farm, rides across his land on horseback, a rifle across his chest, a solitary hero in conflict with the world, a sort of spatial and temporal transposition of the traditional "lonesome cowboy". A hero who comes up against the system, who wants to fight against the end of a way of life and preserve the values that have been passed onto him at all costs. A man who belongs to his land, like his father and his grandfather. Shank filmed this relationship with nature by adopting an ultra sensorial approach, carried along by an organic score mixed with snatches of intra-diegetic sound, along with sharply focused work on the shadows and the staging of small gestures and rituals of daily life such as tending to the animals and the work on the farm. He resisted the passage of time by slowly drawing the outlines of an ode to nature and showed the need to pass on traditions.
John Shank is currently working on a adaptation of André Gide's LA SYMPHONIE PASTORALE, with the desire to write a contemporary tail on the awakening of the senses and love. The strong cry of a need for harmony.