Belgian Film Star Bouli Lanners Transitions to Puppetry, Plans to Open Theatre
Liege, Belgium – Bouli Lanners, the acclaimed Belgian film actor, is venturing into a new field of artistic expression. After a successful four-decade career in the film industry, including a recent win for best supporting actor at the French Oscars, Lanners has found a passion for puppetry. In his home located in Liege, he tenderly applies the final brushstrokes to a traditional wooden puppet in his cellar.
Last year, Lanners inherited a collection of puppets from his father-in-law, whose family had been involved in one of Liege’s prominent puppet troupes. Inspired by this legacy, Lanners and his wife aim to establish their own theatre in their backyard. Their goal is to transmit the art of puppetry and bring traditional theatre back to life.
“A puppet hanging in a library is a dead puppet, you have to give it life, make it play,” Lanners expressed to AFP. In an era dominated by computer-generated superhero movies and streaming services, the couple’s decision to focus on this slower form of entertainment may seem unconventional. However, Lanners believes there is still a place for puppetry in Liege, a working-class town with a rich theatrical history.
Lanners explained, “Until the 1920s, there were 62 theatres in Liege. Cinema somewhat overshadowed puppetry, but today there are still six fixed and three travelling theatres. Puppetry is still deeply ingrained in the culture of the people of Liege, and it is the children who come to see it, not the older generations.”
Aside from his love for puppetry, Lanners’s transition is also motivated by his commitment to environmentalism. He hopes to move away from the unsustainable energy consumption associated with film sets. By using basswood for the puppets and purchasing props from flea markets, he aims to minimize waste and make the theatre production more sustainable. The sets are even painted on bed sheets by Lanners and his wife themselves.
Lanners and his wife plan to start staging two performances each week starting in January. Their impressive troupe consists of approximately 160 characters and animals, including donkeys, snakes, and dragons. Manipulating these puppets, some of which weigh over 10 kilograms (20 pounds) and stand 80 centimeters (30 inches) tall, is no easy task.
While Lanners remains connected to the film industry, he intends to reduce his output and dedicate more time to his new theatrical pursuit.
“I feel less and less comfortable with my place in this industry,” Lanners confessed. “I want to change my life and my ideals too.”