In Spilliaert, Lisa Spilliaert inquires into her blood relationship with renowned Belgian artist Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946). Is she predestined to an artist’s life by this – whether or not – fictitious kinship? Is artistry passed on genetically? Spilliaert reveals herself as a rapping, fanatical genealogist who probes into the origins of her artistic identity. Ceramic sculptures by the filmmaker's sister, Clara Spilliaert, function as a contemporary interpretation of the rich history of depicting family trees and heraldry.


“Lisa Spilliaert uses the pretext of an investigation into her potentially shared roots with Léon Spilliaert, the great master of Belgian Symbolism, in order to combine a brief, but lively portrait of the painter with an approach which is sensitive to his work, with a joyful meditation on notions of heritage and lineage, all set to the rhythm of her own rap music. Since its inception, rap has been a way of revindicating identity and here, Lisa Spilliaert seizes her opportunity to do so literally and joyfully. The film opens with a bust shot of her, surrounded by works of art, paintings and sculptures, her determined gaze fixed on the camera as she raps furiously. Her words hit the air with the same vehement self-affirmation as the paintings of the man who shares her initials, and the same surname, while the camera lingers on the motifs beloved of the painter. The director integrates traditional biographical interviews, documentary material – archives and documents generated as part of her genealogical research – employing a sensual, detailed approach using close-ups of works by Léon Spilliaert and the oblong forms of sculptures by her own sister. In counterpoint to the visual marriage of these two pictorial and sculptural materials, a descendant of the painter comments on the voice-over on his intimate relationship with his great-grandfather’s work. The genealogists announce their verdict: if the criterion used is a family tree Lisa and Léon are not related. However, the heart of the film affirms that there is a common trunk which unites the painter and the filmmaker like two branches reaching out in the same direction – towards art.”

Claire Lasolle1

UPDATED ON 21.03.2023