In the bustling world of film, few directors dare to peel back the veneer of cinema’s glamor to present a raw and authentic self. Gábor Reisz, a bold Hungarian director, does just that. His unwavering commitment to portraying the bipolar nature of modern Hungary, coupled with a modesty that sees him shying away from the limelight, sets him apart.
As his latest film, Explanation to Everything, is about the debut at the 80th Venice International Film Festival, Reisz sat down with BPR to discuss his journey, the nuances lost in translation, and the highs and lows of independent filmmaking in Hungary.
BPR: It’s a known fact that you’re a very humble person. You don’t even want to have your name featured on the poster and in the main title. What’s the most important thing you want your audience to know about you?
Gábor Reisz: That I’m just a member of a dedicated crew. I don’t like to push myself, I don’t like to communicate that there’s only one creator of the film even if as a director I’m the one making many of the final decisions. In a personal way there’s a lot to say because my writing process is such that I use a lot of memories, influences and events around me. But that’s about it.
BPR: If you had to pitch the movie, what would you say about it in one sentence?
G. Reisz: It’s a hard question because I don’t really like the elevator pitch. But if I must put it in one sentence… I wanted to talk about bipolar Hungary where there’s no communication between the two sides, set in the present day in Budapest. It doesn’t really sound too catchy…
BPR: Talking about not being too catchy, you gave a strange title to the film: Explanation to Everything. What does Everything cover?
G. Reisz: “Everything” to me is the two sides with no communication whatsoever. But it’s secondary to “Explanation”, which is a playful exploitation of the word Magyar-ázat, „magyar” being Hungarian. Unfortunately, this pun gets lost in translation.
BPR: At the press conference and in trade interviews Venice festival director Alberto Barbera almost apologized for not having your movie in the main competition.
G. Reisz: Honestly, I’m incredibly happy that the movie got selected. This news alone made me so thrilled that I don’t really care which section it ends up running in. But of course, I was delighted that Alberto even considered us for the main competition. The lineup of that section is incredible. I’m floored that he even mentioned us.
BPR: This is basically the first movie openly criticizing the prime minister, the ruling party and the media controlled by the government. What are your feelings about retribution?
G. Reisz: My mission was to present the two sides and to understand their back stories and their traumas. All I wanted to show is Hungary, in 2022, penetrated by a deep hatred, families, friends, society across the board, and that we’re all exhausted by this hatred. I can’t imagine what will happen when we screen this film in the theaters in Hungary. With previous projects, we were rejected by the National Film Fund, so there’s nothing to lose. And for me it was really a crucial mission to tell the story about this bipolar country.
BPR: Like you said, the film didn’t get any support from the National Film Fund. What is your team planning to do for the film after Venice to become the official entry of Hungary for the Oscar race?
G. Reisz: I don’t think we stand a chance because probably they would like to present a movie for the Academy Awards that’s been funded by the National Film Fund. I don’t think they like our way of independent filmmaking. When I presented my previous project to them there was no communication about the reason for rejecting it. We had one meeting with a script development person and after a year of developing the project, we got a few-liners rejecting our film. On the other hand, there’re many great Hungarian filmmakers who get financing from them. We have to accept that. It’s not easy, but that’s the way it is.
BPR: But for the Golden Globes you don’t need any official backing. Your producers can nominate the film for consideration.
G. Reisz: It’s too early for us to talk about it. Right now, I can only think about Venice. I’m really anxious… because it’s hard to finish a movie. It’s easier to start, but it’s much harder to let it go. And the goodbye starts at the premiere in a huge screening room that holds more than a thousand people and I will have to do a Q & A. For me this sounds … really scary.
BPR: There will be a lot of significant filmmakers in Venice. Who would you like to meet in your downtime?
G. Reisz: If I ran into Woody Allen, I would be shocked, because he’s an icon of my twenties, Annie Hall being one of my favorite movies. We’re going with a huge crew, my wife – a true collaborator – is also coming. I hope it will be a lot of fun for them. But for me and my producer it will be a full day of work packed with interviews. And I would definitely love to see Dorka Vermes’s movie.
BPR: Well, I hope you’ll find some time to relax as you say goodbye, and the press says hello to your movie.
G. Reisz: Well… now you really calmed me. Thanks! (laughs)