The Tattooist Behind The Broken Circle Breakdown
09:28 AM

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In Slate's "The Woman Behind the Tattoos in Belgium's Sexy Oscar-Nominated Film", Brussels-based tattoo artist Emilie Guillaume is profiled for her work in the acclaimed Belgian film The Broken Circle Breakdown. The film is traveling around US theaters now, and will be available on demand on outlets like iTunes from February 4th.

I'm excited to see this film, not just because tattoos play heavily in this love story, but especially because the strong female lead is a tattoo artist. According to the film's site, the plot unfolds in the following way:

The Broken Circle Breakdown tells the love story between Elise and Didier. She has her own tattoo shop, he plays the banjo in a band. It is love at first sight, in spite of major differences. He talks, she listens. He is a dedicated atheist, although at the same time a naive romantic. She has a cross tattooed in her neck, even though she has both feet firmly on the ground. Their happiness is complete after their little girl Maybelle is born. Unfortunately, Maybelle, at six years old, becomes seriously ill. Didier and Elise respond in very different ways. But Maybelle does not leave them any choice. Didier and Elise will have to fight for her together.

While Emilie Guillaume was brought to the film to design the tattoos on the character of Elise, director Felix Van Groeningen also worked with Emilie on the development of the character -- learning about her life as a tattooer, seeking ideas for the tattoo studio in the film by visiting Emilie's studio, and even adapting some of Emilie's own tattoos for Elise. Emilie told Slate:

"Felix didn't know a lot about tattoos," Guillaume, 32, told me by phone. "It was a real discovery for him. He wanted to know about the life of a female tattoo artist so that the character didn't fall into becoming a cliche." [...] "He wanted the tattoos to tell the story of a life and not just be about imposing a style," Guillaume said of the director. "To create a credible character and make it seem natural that she would have those tattoos, I designed the motifs specifically adapted for her, as I would do for any person."

Emilie further explained to Slate the process of designing the tattoos and how they were tranfered to the body of Veerle Baetens, who plays Elise. Emilie's sketches of the tattoos are also highlighted in the article. What I found particularly interesting in the Slate interview is how some very real experiences of tattooed women are translated in the film, as noted below:

The first time Elise and Didier meet, she gives him a quick tattoo-based tour of her body, pointing out where she has covered up the names of former lovers. And when they undress for the first of many times in the film, her tattoos seem to serve as a gateway for him to discover her body.

"In reality that's also what happens," Guillaume said. "I'm very heavily tattooed, and when I meet someone in a romantic context they always want to look at them, read them, they think it's all written there and will explain everything. When a woman is strongly tattooed it makes a very strong impression on a man and he's always surprised and curious to see more, to know how far she will go with it."

Check the trailers and scenes from the film here.

[Thanks, Jesse from Diabolikdvd.com for the link.]

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