Celebrity tattoos aren't just common in real life, they have also played a prominent role on the silver screen. Throughout the years, there have been a multitude of movies in which the main characters had body art. Whether they were a symbol of the hero's strength or a reference to the villain's past, these inkings have often played a central role in the storytelling. For example, in the cult classic "The Boondock Saints," the MacManus brothers sport corresponding tattoos – the Latin words for truth and justice – on their index fingers, cementing their brotherly bond. "Memento" follows a man with no short-term memory on the hunt for his wife's killer who uses his tattoos to keep track of clues. Some actors are even inspired by the body art attached to their roles. In fact, after playing Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean," Johnny Depp got a tatt that resembled his character's.
Now, "The Broken Circle Breakdown," a Belgian film that is up for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, is highlighting the art of tattoos in a different way.
Bringing ink to life
The award-winning Belgian film, which was adapted from a stage play, is a heartbreaking love story about a tattoo artist named Elise and a bluegrass banjo player named Didier. Because body art is such a primary theme in this story, director Felix van Groeningen turned to a talented Brussels-based tattoo artist Emilie Guillaume to provide the intricate ink for his heroine. From birds and butterflies to names of former lovers, every single tatt contributes to Elise's character and moreover, the overall narrative. To ensure that the motif felt natural and authentic, director van Groeningen had to learn a lot about tattoos.
"He wanted to know about the life of a female tattoo artist so that the character didn't fall into becoming a cliché," Guillame told Slate magazine. "He wanted the tattoos to tell the story of a life and not just be about imposing a style."
To make sure that Elise and her tatts were believable, Slate reported that Guillaume custom designed the ink to match the heroine's personality and life story. Some of the ideas she borrowed from her travels and experiences as an artist, and others are based on her own ink. According to the magazine, Guillame spent a week sketching her ideas before finalizing them. Then, the ink was laser printed on transferable adhesive paper and pressed onto the actress' skin, lasting up to four days. One particularly detailed design includes a heart with wings and two skeletons embracing on Elise's chest. Another tatt on her neck features a bird to represent her free spirit, while a compass and rose design symbolizes her sense of adventure. An eye-catching etching of a sugar skull was adapted from one of Guillaume's tattoos and influenced by Mexican culture.
Just because Elise has made ink her career doesn't mean she's immune to tattoo regret, though. The character covers up the name of an ex-lover, Mathieu, with a design of a butterfly woman on her back. Fortunately for the actress, the tatts are temporary.
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* Source: Harris Interactive, 2013