Kinoeye: New perspectives on European film

Vol 3
 Issue 3 
17 Feb
2003

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Miklos Jancso (photo: Andrew James Horton) HUNGARY
This silly profession
Miklós Jancsó interviewed

Jancsó is often perceived of as a very "Hungarian" director, with a love of history and a dislike for montage. The octagenarian director tells Andrew James Horton about his Romanian roots and affinities with Jewish culture, why he gave up on history 20 years ago only to come back to it in his latest film and the reason he no longer uses long takes.


In September 2002, Miklós Jancsó celebrated his 81st birthday. When you meet him, though, it doesn’t particularly seem that he is running out steam. He’s had four films premiered in the last five years—an impressive record for any director in Hungary these days. With some of the most respected works in Hungarian film history behind him, the director seems to be basking in his old age, enjoying a new wave of popular success and taking delight in joking about his own advanced years.

With over eight decades of life behind, Jancsó is a man only too happy to talk about himself and his films. He seems unscarred by the traumas of the past he has lived through—although some of his films suggest otherwise—and he's a relaxed and witty raconteur rather than a tortured genius agonising over what he's experienced. His humourous side comes through in the persona of "Miki bácsi" (Uncle Miki) that he has in his films of the last few years: not the stern grandfather of modern Hungarian cinema, but it's clowning and amiable uncle.

Nevertheless, with history playing such a prominent role in many of his films, I was keen to ask him how four-fifths of a century of political change had affected his own personal outlook on life. After all, Jancsó, being born in 1921, witnessed many of his country's most traumatic events: the right-wing backlash after Béla Kun's 1919 failed attempt to esablish a Communist government in Hungary; the effects of losing two-thirds of the country's territories in the 1920 Treaty of Trianon as punishment for being on the wrong side in World War I; the rise of first nationalism and then fascism; his country's desperate—and failed—attempt to stay out of World War II; the invasion of the Germans and the deportations of the Jews; the muscling out of opposition parties by the Communists in the post-war period; the harsh years of Stalinism; and the liberal uprising that was brutally crushed in 1956, just to give a few examples from the first 35 years of his life.


I understand you're half-Hungarian, half-Romanian.

I was born to a Transylvanian family. My father was Transylvanian; my mother was Romanian. My father was one of ten siblings, and my mother was one of twelve. My mother's family mostly claimed to be Romanian, but since my father was Hungarian I was raised as a Hungarian. From these two big families, only my father's family came to live in Hungary. My father was sentenced to death after the First World War, because he was assistant to the governor of Transylvania [in 1916]. At that time, they had only two children, and they came to Hungary and I was born here, near Budapest [in Vác]. We went a lot to Transylavania to visit my mother's sister, but my father couldn't go back there.

You were born in 1921, one year after Trianon and two years after Béla Kun...

Oh, Béla Kun! And Admiral Miklós Horthy came to power after that. I wish I was as old as some of my historian friends who are older than me, then I could have seen both Béla Kun and Horthy alive. But I never had the chance, unlike the poet György Faludy, who is older than me [he was born in 1910]—and he's still alive. He got to see both Kun and Horthy.

...this must have been a time of enormous social and political tension. How aware of it were you growing up?

The whole school system revolved around the concept of Greater Hungary [ie Hungary before Trianon], and that we should get it back. Since I'm half-Romanian and I have close connections to Transylvania, I lived through all this a bit differently. The people who are nationalists, in any country, are usually a very small minority, and it was the same in Hungary at this time. But there were teachers in the schools who made a lot of noise and got a lot of people to back them. The Romanian perspective was rather different, although there was very strong nationalism at this time. There were Saxons [ethnic Germans in Romania since mediaeval times] there, Armenians and my cousins were Jews from northern Transylvania. Their mother tongue was Yiddish, of course, so they could speak to the Saxons.

The Romanian side of my family would get together to celebrate and there could be around 100 people there. When the Jewish boys were there, they always made them speak Yiddish, because they thought it sounded so funny. So, I lived through it a bit differently from either Romanians or Hungarians. But Hungarians believed Transylvania was theirs, even though they probably were a minority there. Hungarians are disgusting people really, in the way they played the game of aristocracy, the game of lord and servant. You can't even imagine how it was.

It's quite sad that in today's political arena, our ex-prime minister [Viktor Orbán] is trying to build on this past. They usually say that the people who are trying to be the biggest Hungarians are the ones that have the least connections to Magyar roots. For instance, Orbán has gypsy roots. Whoever has a different ethnic background, they try to be the most nationalistic. The whole thing's a load of shit. I really hope that now we have all these borders coming down there will be some sort of reunification. When I was growing up, you didn't need a passport or anything. You just travelled around freely in this whole region. It tightened up when the Germans came in. And then there were the Russians...

When did you become involved in the folk movement?

I was a boy scout, and we travelled all over Hungary to little villages. At that time, villages were much more secluded and cut off, so we discovered some amazing things. It was quite anti-German, this movement. There was a situation where the Germans looked down on Slavic culture, and behind this idea the German people in Hungary and this folk movement was kind of a response to this, a form of cultural defence. If you haven't lived here, you couldn't understand.

Since I wanted to become a stage director and there was no such school, I graduated in law and folk-studies.

I read in an interview that you paid 100 crowns for your diploma.

Yes, we had to do a viva to graduate and defend a topic, and an assistant professor was selling these topics, of course. So it's not really the whole diploma, as there were a total of five vivas we had to do, and it was only one that I paid for. It was international law, as I had no interest in that at all.

The two things I really liked were the philosophy of law, as the teacher was something of a liberal, and Roman law. After that I was an assistant lawyer for a while. If I hadn't chosen this silly profession [film-making], I would be a millionaire. It's too stupid to even think about. But after 1945, I decided to become a film-maker.

I originally wanted to study theatre, though. When I was trying to get into the Academy of Film and Theatre [in Budapest], I was talking to two people. One of them, was Béla Balázs and he said "Why do you want to become a theatre director? You should study film."

He started the Hungarian film archives, and I was his assistant. So we got close. He was a very nice man. He died fairly young, in 1949. He wasn't just a film historian and critic, he was also a very good Hungarian poet. He wrote two of Béla Bartók's librettos.

You kept up with working in theatre, though.

I haven't worked in the theatre for a long time. We have very closed circles here in the arts world, and the theatre people always looked at me as an outsider. So, I stopped working in the theatre in the 1980s.

When you left film school, you made newsreels for a number of years. Obviously, these aren't considered among your greatest achievements. How do you feel about all those years? Were they a waste of time or did they teach you something?

Well, they were all lies what we did, but technically they were very important. I learnt the craft of film-making. We used light cameras with no sound facilities, as these were too heavy at this time. They were Reflexes that were used by the Germans in the war. The good point was that we were constantly going around the country, so we could see what was actually going on.

When you watch these films, you think they are reality, but it's all lies. You think that film always mirrors reality, but I made these things and I knew they did not.

So, 1956 happened and then life continued with János Kádár and his regime, and they let off the pressure a bit—you could even say liberalising things. So from the 1960s, it wasn't the cruel Bolshevism that was present. Kádár had two murders on his hands, one was [foreign secretary] Laszló Rajik, a party comrade who was executed after a show trial [in 1949 for criticising Stalinism] and the other was Imre Nagy, the prime minister at the time of the [1956] uprising. He had some sort of guilt about this, so his politics were relatively liberal. They said that he was trying to wash his hands of the blood by doing this.

The story of Kádár would be a really good story to make into a film—very Shakespearean.

When the uprising itself happened, you were in China...

Yes, I was there for four months at that time. My friends told me that it was really good that I was out of the country when it happened, as I would have been hanged [as a Stalinist]. You need some luck in life as well.

After 1956, you considered converting to Judaism and emigrating to Israel.

I never wanted to convert, but I did want to move to Israel. I was thinking about it. I'm not a religious person of any sort, even though I went to a Catholic school, but it was quite liberal.

So why Israel, of all the places in the world, if you didn't want to convert?

Why? I felt close to these biblical places. I grew up with the bible, and I've constantly been drawn to Jewish culture, and the bible is pretty much based on that. I've had many Jewish friends, and they were always very intelligent. I was interested in the whole culture. The Hungarian economy, the culture, even Hungarian literature for the last 400 years, none of it could have existed without Jews. I've never really thought about it this way, but it was probably because in my Romanian family it didn't matter what kind of roots you had to be a part of the local culture.

You've said previously that you are ashamed at not having taken up arms in World War II. Is part of your interest in Jewish culture guilt at not having fought to save them?

Up to the very last minute, we had no idea what was happening to the Jews. We knew they were being rounded up and deported, but we didn't know where they were going or why. The regent of Hungary [Horthy] had been trying to hold Hungary back from entering the war. He didn't hold the country back from being anti-Semitic, as he was an anti-Semite himself. We knew even around 1943 that the Germans would lose the war, and Hungary tried to stay semi-independent. But when the Germans realised this, they occupied the country. That was 19 March 1944. I remember this as I became a doctor of law the day before.

I was living in Kolazsvár [now in Romania and called Cluj] at the time, and there was a group organised to protest against the German occupation. On 20 March, in the university, they made declarations and started to prepare to fight against the German occupation. But a former government minister came to the university and told them they'd be dead in one week if they tried to do anything. So, on his advice everyone dispersed into the mountains. We were all in small groups and we were getting ready to get weapons to fight the Germans. But it was just an illusion. We didn't carry it out. There was a moment there to really do something, but nothing came of it.

Hungary is not really a country to carry out partisan fighting in. There are no big mountains or forests to hide in. Up to the 1800s, there were huge swamps and forests, and there were a lot of bandits and freedom fighters that could hide in the swamps. They fought the Turks and the Austrians like this. In the 1800s, though, they drained these swamps and felled the forests to make agricultural land, and there were no more hiding places. Nature didn't give us a chance to fight. That's why Hungarians were so shitty at fighting; we could never hide anywhere.

As the 1950s went on you moved from newsreels to documentaries. Can you tell me something about those?

I don't remember what they're like. They're probably quite crappy. We were just messing around with things. I'm quite a leftist, and that's what I've always been, so I imagine they mirror that.

How easy was it to move from making documentaries to making fiction?

It was very easy really. All the newsreels we made were fiction anyway—they were lies and I always knew they were lies—but they were done in the manner of making a feature film, as everything had to be staged and directed. It breaks your heart to make things like that, because they were so untrue.

Miklos Jancso's Szegenylegenyek (The Round-Up, 1965)Your first international success was Szegénylegyek (The Round-up, 1965). Hungarian critics often interpret this as an allegory of 1956. Despite the fact this event has little resonance outside Hungary, the film has done very well abroad, where people seem to emphasise the broader significance of the film's study of tyranny. Do you prefer the specific or general reading of this film? Or are you happy to leave it up to the viewer to decide how to read it?

This film isn't just about 1956. The film is about the fact that there are people who want to be free and people who are oppressing them. The oppressors always use the same methods. In the places, where there is no freedom—Turkey, Iran, China—it's a very simple equation.

In the 1960s, it was obvious that the film was about 1956 as it was so close in time, to everyone all round the world. But the story of the film, or a large part of it, was a true story from the 1800s. When the rope is put around someone's neck to convince them to talk, that's a real story. Before I was allowed to take the film to Cannes, I had to make a declaration that the film had nothing to do with Hungarian politics or society. Everybody knew it wasn't true. They even showed the film in Russia, though.

Even now, it's a very hard and uncomfortable piece of film-making. What was the reaction of audiences of the time?

Well, now it's a difficult film, but it wasn't really when it was shown. In Hungary, it was strange situation. We had American, British, Italian, French films, but just a few and they always came here very late. Most of all it was Russian films and also local ones.

A million people saw Szegénylegények. The distributors even had a prize for the millionth person in Hungary to see the film. They showed the film in a cinema, and within that crowd they knew somebody would be the millionth, so there was a drawer for who would get the prize. I had to be there to get the prize. So they called out the row and seat number of the winner. It was a very old woman. They invited her to come up and receive the prize, but she didn't move. So, they asked her again, but she still didn't move. It turned out she was completely deaf and dumb. And that was the millionth person to see the film.

Szegénylegények is a good film to bring up a number of points that are true for most of your oeuvre. Firstly, you always choose small moments in history. You've never made a film directly about 1956, for example. Why is that?

I think it probably is very difficult or impossible to make a film of 1956. Well, it is possible, but...

There are moments in history where you can never know what happened. Everyone looks at it from a different perspective; everyone sees something different in it. There are always moments that are unsure. Here's an example to illustrate what I mean. Umberto II of Italy was killed by an anarchist, an Italian anarchist living in the US. The anarchist movement had a huge following in Italy at the time. The fascist movement came out of it. The black shirt of the fascists came from the anarchist movement. Anyway, this anarchist killed the king. Since there was no death penalty in Italy at the time, he received a life sentence. He hanged himself within a year. Soon after, the governor of the prison became a baron and a general. So, did the anarchist kill himself or not?

These are the little moments of history I am interested in.

I was the fifth person to make a film about the death of Crown Prince Rudolph, in the "Maylering affair." And it was the fifth version of what could have happened. There's another story connected to this. It was an Italian production and we were shooting in Croatia in a small castle. The castle was in a beautiful park and the director was very young. We became good friends. I'd been working in the castle for some time already, and I looked up at the wall and I saw a large coat of arms there. So I asked whose it was. And the director told me it was the Marquis de Bombel. Bombel was head of Rudolf's personal guard. I knew about him, so I asked when he got the castle. He got it from the Emperor just after Rudolf died. Now there is the question, did Rudolf kill himself?

Your films always lack psychologising. Why do you veer away from this approach?

Well, they say I don't do psychologising. But I'm not an expert in this, so it's hard to tell. In my films there are types of people. I always liked westerns, like those by John Ford. In them, there's not so much psychologising; it's action and strong characters.

Is this why you like to work with same actors over and over again?

Yes, but I often change which sets of actors I'm using. First, I use one set and then I use another set. But basically, yes, an actor represents a certain type.

You don't like montage either.

For a while I was famous (and other people too) for my "long takes," these sequence shots that last several minutes. At that time it was really special. Within these sequence shots there were close-ups and long shots—everything. Film-making is really over that now. With the influence of commercials and music, editing has become snappier. Unavoidably in a long shot you have empty moments, and it can be boring today. But, for example, Béla Tarr uses them to say something today.

I never used the long shot on purpose, like Tarr does, though. In the 1990s, I made many documentaries about Jews, gypsies and so on and in documentaries you can't avoid editing. I've now made my fourth film with Ferenc Grunwalsky [as director of photography] and this is done with a lot of editing. I'm not basing it on the MTV style of rapid cutting, but I'm using montage.

The studio heads were very important figures, then. I was wondering if you could explain something about their role.

Not simply just the heads of the studio, though. The major figure in the Kádár era was György Aczél [the Party's cultural commissar], and he created some room to play around with, especially for film, since Hungarian film was gaining international recognition. You couldn't say two things: "Russians go home!" and that 1956 was a revolution. You could say it through symbolism or metaphor, but you couldn't say it directly. Within this cultural policy, they managed to pressurise some people and control them to make Party propaganda. It was either pressure or they corrupted them with money.

But a good number of my colleagues didn't do this type of film at all—the honest ones. These were mostly people making arts films. But an art film, as they say, is a film that the audience doesn't go and see. By the 1970s, audiences had already had enough of these films. The intellectuals still understood these films fairly well. The larger audience, however, lost interest. What was in fashion at that time in Hungary was for film-makers to be an artist. It's probably still like that. There are some, though, that say "I'd don't care, I just want to make a film that makes money."

There are three films you made about 1919. Why did you keep returning to this period?

[looks confused and there is heated debate with the translator] Which three films?

Csillagosok katonak (The Red and the White, 1967), Csend és kiáltás (Silence and Cry, 1968) and Égi bárány (Agnus Dei, 1971)

Yes, yes, of course, you are right. Well, it's a very special period in history, that's probably the reason. There were a lot of Hungarian POWs in Russia. The only way to get out of there was to put themselves on one side or the other. They were mostly simple soldiers, not aristocrats, so they stood by the Reds on the whole. So, Csillagosok katonak is about the dilemma: who is right, anyway?

These are special moments in Hungarian history. I don't know if we still have these special moments in these times. The world is not really interested in sociology or society's problems that much. Everything today is about living well, forgetting what is really happening and trying to get by. Everyone tries to forget that the world is in poverty, and that's what the world is about. This kind of classic opposition is very, very rare where such fundamental forces are clashing. Take, for example, the Balkan wars. There were not really oppressors and oppressed, but nationalities. The [potential] war in Iraq gets very close to this classical situation. But it just gets close, as it's not really what it seems on the surface and there's a lot more going on behind it. There's Huntingdon's ideas about the "clash of civilisations" on the one hand and then there's the question of oil on the other. So, today it would be really difficult to find such a fundamental clash between two opposing poles. The world is becoming more bourgeois, and that's why relationships and problems between individuals show up much more.

It's all "tittytainment," something designed to make you not watch, not get involved and not care. Films are mostly that now.

In the 1970s, you made a number of films in Italy with non-Hungarian themes. Were the films made in Italy because you could get money there or did you look for Italian producers as that was the best way to realise a pictures on these topics?

A lot of young people came there thinking that was the centre of new cinema. In the 1960s and the 70s, American films were decreasing in popularity slightly and auteur film were becoming more important and that was a centre for them. But I went there because I was in love with an Italian girl.

Conventional wisdom has it that you're films aren't as powerful when you're dealing with non-Hungarian themes. Would you agree or have we misunderstood these features?

Well, maybe it's right[that these films aren't so good]. It's not by chance I've stayed here [in Hungary]. Someone's culture is gathered around them from childhood. There's a story about this. I was shooting in Milan for my first Italian film [La Pacifista, 1970]. I was on the third floor of this house, it was autumn but it was still warm in the early evening so the windows were wide open. There were young people outside singing songs about Garibaldi. In Hungary he is a myth, partly just because he's a freedom fighter but also because after 1849 a lot of Hungarians went to fight with him. So, a lot of Hungarian peasant folk songs are written about him. I was hanging out of the window singing along with them, and my girlfriend asked "Why on earth are you singing with them?" And I told her that Garibaldi is a Hungarian and we sing many Garibaldi songs in Hungary. "But," she said, "this Garibaldi song is only sung by fascists." You only know these things if you've grown up in a culture.

In the 1980s, you moved away from historical films, typically set on the Great Hungarian plain, and your films moved to contemporary urban settings and became more ironic and self-referential.

There were two reasons for that really. I knew a couple of things when I started out with scriptwriter Gyula Hernádi. I knew that in Hungary there was this big plain, and the plain suggests freedom. But there is no freedom, of course. These films were mostly interesting because they had a lot of actors in them. But a lot of people costs a lot of money, and in the 1980s there was not enough money. That's why we invented these sequence shots with lots of TV monitors, to break up time and space. So, in a way, financial reasons was the force behind it.

In the 1980s, the thing to say was "Russians go home!" But, as we've talked about, you couldn't see that directly. For a long time my wife was Márta Mészáros. She made her "Diary" films [which depicted the period of 1956], which of course were personal memories. I have completely different memories in my life about the Russians. I think I may try to tell the story of how it was when I was a POW [in the Second World War] in Russia. There is some mention of that in my latest film [Kelj fel komám, ne aludjál! / Wake up Mate, Don't Sleep!, 2003]. The simple person is never the same as the oppressing power. The simple, average Russian person is really unbelievably humanistic. When they are forced into a system of oppression, they do what they are made to do. Russians used to cry and they knew it wasn't right to kill. The Nazis never cried.

In the late 1980s, you started to appear in your own films as yourself. Why?

We did a documentary with the cinematographer János Kende in Budapest. It was about music in Budapest—there were many songs in there. It was a series produced by an Italian producer and many other directors made similar documentaries about their home towns. The first shots were of a huge hot-air balloon which was being inflated in Hősök tere (Heroes' Square). Kende was trying to shoot the interior of the balloon, which was huge and covered almost all of the square. Kende said it was very empty and there was no sense of scale, so he told me to go and stand inside the balloon. So, I eventually showed up in this film a couple of times in this kind of way. And that's how it started. There's a lot of irony, private jokes and silliness in these films.

The film we did before this one [Utolsó vacsora az Arabs Szürkénél / Last Supper at the Arabian Grey Horse, 2000] had some scenes shot at the Niagra Falls. We were walking around there with the crew, when two guys and two girls came up to me and said "Hey, Miki básci, how's it going?" "Fucking great, no problem." And one of the actors asked "Who was that?" "I dunno." "OK, let's put it in the film."

In the 1990s, you stopped working with Kende as cinematographer and started working with Grunwalsky. How did that happen?

Well, let's start with how I chose Kende. My previous cinematographer, Tamás Somló, didn't want to do 360-degree turns with the camera. Kende [who had worked as assistant cameraman on Csillagosok katonak] was willing to do that, so he became my regular cinematographer. When we did our first film together, Csend és kiáltás, he was 25 years old. We worked well for many years, and Kende learned how to do these long sequence shots really well. About 13 years ago, we shot the film Kék Duna keringő (Blue Danube Waltz, 1991), and Kende didn't want to stop doing long sequence shots. After I made the first film with Grunwalsky, Kende was really upset, but after a while we settled our differences and we became really good friends again.

In your recent set of features, the singer András Lovasi features a lot. How did you meet him?

I was doing a documentary about the celebrations for 23 October 1956, the date of the revolution. There were some young bands there, and Lovasi became really good friends with Grunwalksy. He's a strange boy. It mostly occurs in Italy, but he's a cantatore, a singer and a poet. There was someone like him before in Hungary, Tamás Cseh [who appeared in three Jancsó films in a similar manner to Lovasi], but he sung lyrics by the poet Géza Bereményi [who later became a film director], very good ones. Lovasi writes his own lyrics though, and they are very stong.

Does Lovasi write new material for the films, or do you use pre-existing material?

He's never written anything for the films, we always choose the songs from what he's already recorded. You should follow the lyrics in these films. They're really important. They carry a message. So, the songs are re-mixed. Grunwalsky demands that. The reason is that most modern music is mixed so you can't hear the lyrics very well, and we want the words to be very clear.

Miklos Jancso's Nekem lámpást adott kezembe as Ur Pesten (The Lord's Lantern in Budapest, 1998)I take the message of these films as being that modern Hungary is alienated from its culture, its history and reality. Would you agree with that?

[laughs]. Yes.

So, are you surprised, then, that these films have been popular with young people? [33,000 Hungarians went to see Nekem lámpást adott kezembe az Úr Pesten / The Lord's Lantern in Budapest, 1998, for example, making it the fourth most popular Hungarian film in 1999.]

It was quite surprising that they have any reaction at all to these films. Of course, there are many songs in these films that they like.

In your most recent film, you've returned to the historical themes again after a break of nearly 20 years. How come?

Who knows why. Probably because of the former government which really tried to legitimise Hungary's right-wing past. Orbán was never open about it, but he was always approaching the topic tangentially. Well, the country has split into two because of this problem. The current government barely made it into power, and some people are saying things against the Jews. It's brought this whole problem up again. There's a lot of nationalism going around. The opposition leader isn't stopping it either.

At the Magyar filmszemle (Hungarian Film Week) you mentioned that you are planning a fifth film featuring Pepe and Kapa.

[looking up at the heavens] It's not up to me! If God will let us.

You've played a role in trying to support the films of young Hungarian directors, which includes a couple of cameo appearances in recent films.

I'm not helping them. They're talented. This generation has grown up on motion pictures and they can express themselves and their opinions about the world in film . The young film-makers, aren't necessarily deep yet as they don't have enough experience. But they have talent and you can't teach that. I've seen about 20 new Hungarian films at least recently. The younger ones were usually the most interesting. The mid-generation, directors in their forties or fifties, don't really make films. I don't really understand why not. The youngsters are doing really well.

When you watch these films, you can tell where they slip up. There's a lot of influence from American and international films, and the basic style of Hungarian films in this manner has very little to do with reality. I can accept this from Americans when they make these kind of films. When you see a Hungarian film that is so obviously not happening here in Hungary, it doesn't really work. There's a new Hungarian film about a big star who has a manager [Szent Iván napja/ Saint Ivan's Day, 2003], and it's not very realistic as that sort of thing doesn't happen here.

You can make a film that's unrealistic; that's fine. Like Pretty Woman. I watch Pretty Woman, I know it's not true. It's a fairy tale. It's presented as a fairy tale as well. There's this whore who marries a rich man. I know it's not true. But as a fairy tale, I accept it, I smile. But here especially in Europe you need some sort of reality to accept even a fairy tale.

We were talking earlier about your time making newreels when you gained valuable experience, not just of film-making as a craft but also travelling around the country and finding out what is really going on. Do you think the young generation lacks this kind of perspective?

That could be it, yes. In the Kádár era, people coming out of film-school couldn't make films right way. There was the Béla Balázs Stúdió, which was just for young film-makers, where you could make short films but most of the time people became assistant directors. Now, people are in their twenties when they make their first film and not everyone succeeds. Everyone has to be an auteur; everybody has to be an artist. They won't accept any criticism or anything like that. So, Hungarian film is a flower in the swamp. It's beautiful, but it's useless as nobody wants to go and see it, and so it doesn't pay back the producers. You need some sort of mentor to finance these sorts of films, and it's usually the state.

On the other hand, there is so much young talent. This is the next step: for film-makers to see how the Hungarian audiences react to films and what their tastes are. It's not only connected to knowing reality and making documentary films.

Andrew James Horton

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About the author

Andrew James HortonAndrew James Horton is Editor-in-Chief of Kinoeye and was the founding Culture Editor of Central Europe Review, on whose advisory board he now sits. He also writes on central European culture for other journals, is Associate Editor of Moveast and has edited the e-book The Celluloid Tinderbox.

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