Interview with Györg Kristóf
Meet György Kristóf (*1982), first time director with OUT, now competing in Un Certain Regard. The story of Ágoston, a man in his fifties, suddenly unemployed, embarking on a trip with two aims: to find work and catch a big fish has previously taken part in Cinéfondation L’ Atelier (2015) and was presented by Slovak producer Marek Urban at Producers on the Move 2015.
"Because I think that problems of post-socialist society are not only our parents' problems. All that radically influences the life of our generation too and we are obliged to talk about it. About that slow degradation so palpable even for us."
Well, thanks to being part of L’ Atelier we managed to get funding from grants that had seemed out of reach for us. This allowed us to take the first step towards the actual filming. We have taken part in some other coproduction markets, but here we had a different status. That is to say, for the first time it wasn’t us approaching partners, but partners approaching us, already familiar with the script and making clear-cut offers.
The main advantage of participating in L’ Atelier is that you get a good taste of the Festival, you can see how things work. So coming back now, it won't be all that strange. Still, I have no idea what we are walking into.
Why have you decided for the story of Ágoston? What inspired you?
Well, after a failure with my bachelor degree film at FAMU, I was not accepted to further study for master degree. So we, my wife and I, moved to Riga, because she was in the last years of her studies at the film school in Tallin. However, that bachelor film of mine ended up wining several cinematography focused film festivals, and everywhere we were given 35mm stock as a part the awards. We were left with several kilometres of it. So I thought it might be a good start for a short film. Well, it would have been, if not for the problem that I just wasn't capable of coming up with a short film. As hard as I tried, it just didn't work. So I tried my luck with a feature film. And that is how OUT was born. The thing that was crucial for me was having a character abroad. Then I have spent quite a time with the question how old this character should be, should he be of my generation, or older. In the end I chose the latter, reasons being dramaturgic as well as personal.
OUT is a film of many languages, the crew as well. How does one conduct a multilingual dialogue? What was your lingua franca?
There is Slovak, Hungarian, Polish, Latvian, Russian and Estonian spoken in the film, all sounding naturally, of course.
For example, Sándor Terhes, the lead actor, doesn't speak any Slovak or Russian. He learnt all his dialogues by heart. Also, his English isn't something to write home about, so in his case English was not much of a help. Then there was Belarus actor Victor Nemetz as Dimitrij, and for a change, he doesn't say a word in other than Russian, so even I wasn't able to talk with him directly. In addition, he kept saying his lines differently all the time, leaving us all stress-sweated, but we made it.
We were lucky enough to have a great part of the crew being at least trilingual, and the combination of these people really helped to make communication possible. But generally speaking, we worked in English mostly. It was the only way to coordinate Slovaks, Hungarians, Czechs, Latvians, Estonians or Lithuanians. Yet, it happened sometimes that some crew members were very good in pretending they understood English even though they didn't.
The visual of OUT, the framing and light, is quite striking. Did you have this particular quality of the film set beforehand? Or is it somehow due to OUT's cinematographer Gergely Pohárnok?
Oh yes, I had a quite particular vision. Then I took our approach and time limits of shooting into consideration and realized that this idea cannot quite be followed, and we had to look for more feasible ways.
The most crucial moment turned out to be the location scouting, with location actually determining the style of the film and our approach. We both might have had some ideas about the shots, but then we came to the set, looked around, gave it a thought, worked on the actors' action, rehearsed everything, and based on that we decided on where to position the camera and on its moves. Also, the individual scenes and sets posed some limits.
Frankly, we haven't had storyboards, nor have we set any frame-by-frame plan with the cinematographer. Gergely is that kind of cinematographer that only uses little artificial light, if any at all. Plus, he is fast and very flexible, which was one of the factors why we decided to ask him to work with us.
Ágoston's dream is to catch a big fish. What is your dream?
To make all the projects I talk about in the last question real...
To have enough time and money to do other things than to work...
Other things would ideally include off-shore sailing on a speedboat. I hope to sail around the world one day and also that there would still be life in the oceans and less garbage. And then, I would love to eat the world´s best restaurants on a regular base...
And for me to decide where I want to live, to find a place I could call Home...
Do you have any ideas or projects locked safely in your head that you care to share?
I very much hope to, immediately after Cannes, enter pre-production of one very particular project. It is a dance sci-fi thriller movie that is a metaphor for the Slovak political situation after the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Simultaneously I work on development of a project that is the exact opposite of OUT, a story of people who prefer to stay at home. It takes place at the tri-border region of Slovakia, Hungary and Ukraine during the time when we were about to enter the Schengen Area.
I have one more “American” idea stuck in my head. This one is set in New York City of 1977, an era when the city was still totally chaotic and free, and the music clubs and new music genres were getting it on with DJs performing on the streets, stealing electricity directly from the street lamps. Then a blackout happened and lasted over one whole day. This is the time and place of my story.
Also, I hope to get some projects going that are not related to film. I am working on two operas now that I would like to stage, the music would be composed by a friend of mine. They are both a bit specific, one is a zombie opera and the other is about an enchanted tree that turns people into animals.
Personal Quote: 42 (lead: Douglas Adams)
Favourite word: in what language?
Film you can watch zillion times and still love it: Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, 2000)
Favourite meal: soup