It’s been a tough few months for Hollywood’s most elusive man- beast. The actor/model/director/Pillow Talk host has been linked to more than one scandal, and for the first time in his career, he won’t be escaping the prying eyes of fans and paparazzi.
Now, thanks to Netflix, we can delve into the mind of the “Bobby.” Specifically, how Robert Pattinson saw himself and the world around him in the years leading up to, and following, Belville. The best documentary about his life, work, and everything in between.
The Making Of ‘Belville’
The film opens with images of nature. Forests, lush green landscapes, and rugged coasts line the screen as we hear the haunting strains of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite. As we quickly learn, this is no ordinary ballet adaptation. The camera pans over a magnificent Lake Geneva, before cutting to a closer view of an ornamental tree, bathed in sunshine.
The scene is eerily reminiscent of a scene from the first season of Game of Thrones, in which the Lannisters are feasting at their winter palace, as the sun finally begins to break through the clouds. Like the best documentaries, Belville immerses us in its world with little effortful distractions.
After a short break, we’re back in the forest and our eye is drawn to a cluster of birch trees. The forest imagery continues as we hear the voice of Peter Sallo, creator of one of the most popular websites about film. We learn that the project, once called Belville, was originally meant to be a romantic comedy about a young woman finding love in a rural area. However, after reading the script, the director decided it was “too broad.” He wanted to explore the concept of “home,” and in doing so, create something more unique.
Cut to a wide shot of a lake. As we learn from the French director François Ozon (whom we might remember from the fantastic Swingers adaptation), all lakes are not created equal. Some are calm and placid, while others are more chaotic, teetotaling swans and alligators lurking beneath the surface. As with any good documentary, we’re kept on our toes and never really sure what we might see next.
An Unexpected Scandal
In March, it was reported that Robert Pattinson had an affair with a married woman. The actress, Stella Bowen, filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences.” However, the breakup wasn’t very amicable, with each party blaming the other for the demise of their six-year marriage.
When they were first linked, many fans suspected that the model-actress had succumbed to blackmail and was forced to enter into an unhappy marriage. Perhaps she felt she owed it to her career to keep her sexuality on the down low. Or, as she’s now fifty-three years old, she may have simply grown tired of waiting for her perfect match. Or, it could be a combination of all of the above.
In any case, it was a surprise to many that the married woman was indeed the fiftysomething actress. Most knew her to be a lesbian, and while there’s no denying that Pattinson is a beautiful man, he’s certainly not the first – or the last – to be taken advantage of by a woman of a certain age. In the years leading up to their affair, there were certainly signs that the “Twilight” starlet was growing bored of being typecast as “Jacob’s little sister.”
Red Carpets, Private Lives
After his split from Stella Bowen, Robert Pattinson’s life became a series of red carpet events. From the premiere of his directorial debut, Good Time, to appearing at award shows and on magazine covers, he rarely found time for a quiet moment. It seemed that every few months, the tabloids would unveil a new story about the actor.
While there’s nothing wrong with showing off one’s enviable looks on the big screen, it’s no secret that paparazzi can be brutal. With a celebrity’s privacy increasingly considered a privilege, it’s no wonder that the cast and crew of Belville were wary of being filmed. For the most part, the team successfully kept their private lives private, only occasionally falling victim to the press.
A Change Of Career
With his on-again, off-again relationship with the actress Charlotte Riley, and subsequent marriage, the last thing that Robert Pattinson needed was another distraction in his life. After the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the actor announced that he would be taking a step back from his career. However, it was more of a sideways step than a complete halt. While Riley has since become his wife, he’s certainly not abandoning his acting career. Far from it, in fact. He’s simply taking a break from the public eye, focusing instead on the smaller, indie films that he’s always favored, and the documentaries that he feels can speak most to his interests.
While most people blamed the affair with Bowen on alcohol and inappropriate behavior, citing his history of heavy drinking, the industry took a bit of a different view. “I think that everyone in the movie industry knows that he’s a great talent who is incredibly easy to work with and who is very loyal to his friends and to his fans,” said a spokesperson for Netflix. “Everyone is rooting for him and looking forward to him coming back.”
A Self-aware Narrator
While the camera follows a voyeuristic gaze through the personal lives of the characters in Belville, the film is actually a documentary about the making of the documentary. It’s a fascinating conceit, one that allowed the filmmakers to show us an intimate look at the trials and tribulations of one of the most interesting, if occasionally frustrating, characters in recent times. It was also a chance for the creator to tell the story of how he came to create the character of “Bobby” in the first place.
The idea for Belville came to Sallo during an argument with his wife. They were discussing their children and what was important to them, as individuals and as a couple. During the discussion, the idea of home came up, and while his wife preferred to remain in their native France, Sallo wondered if he could find “somewhere better” to call home. A documentary filmmaker, he wondered if he could create a character who was based on himself and use that character to explore this “better” home – for himself and his wife. Using this idea, the fictionalized Sallo was able to explore what it means to be a homebody, and the joys and frustrations of simply wanting to be left alone.
The idea for the character of “Bobby” grew out of these early conversations. While we have a sense of his physical appearance – that of an elegant English gentleman, with a twinkle in his eye and a shy smile – it is his voice, at times, that truly carries the audience away. In an uncanny resemblance to Peter Sallo, the man behind the camera, the fictionalized Bobby also exhibits, at times, a haughty English accent. However, while Sallo’s voice was, in fact, a deliberate imitation, the fictionalized Bobby’s accent is, as the Irish would say, “mostly genuine.”
An Insatiable Curiosity
Curiosity, as we know, led to the downfall of Icarus. After years of being denied access to the sun by his father, the craftsman/artefact maker took a peek at what was going on, and flew too close to the flame, scorching his wings in an effort to keep up with the beautiful, and occasionally infuriating, woman he loved. While there’s no equivalent character in the story of Bobby, we can assume that the curious, inquisitive side that inhabits the actor came, in part, from his deep desire to understand what was going on in his life at any given moment. He wanted to know, quite literally, what was happening, and while it might have been interesting if the camera had followed him around all the time, it’s perhaps better that he took a back seat and allowed the events of his life to unfold naturally.
Homebody Genre Defined
Whether or not you were a fan of Good Time, it’s safe to say that you knew, and likely still know, a homebody. Someone who spends most of their time at home, perhaps watching TV or listening to music, with occasional forays into the great unknown. People like this might, on the surface, seem to have little in common with the characters of Belville, but there are certainly elements of this genre that translate directly to the world of Norman Rockwell.