For the first time in three years, the idea of his own feature film, Wandering leaves began to mature in the mind of Mátyás Szabó. The central figures in the film are a peculiar relationship between two lonely, distant people. The film won support in the Incubator program of the National Film Institute, and now we had the opportunity to look at the shooting as well.
„Speaking of the story came very simply, I wondered what would happen if I saw it through other people’s eyes. It was then that storytelling started in my head when I started figuring out where I wanted to take the story, because it could have been transformed into a very genre, very fantasy-filmed direction. I had a feeling it would be really nice and exciting to talk about two people, including their emerging love story.
There was a human relationship, and a very strange ability, for Abel that would eventually bring the two people close together. Because they wouldn’t be able to be together anyway if it weren’t for this weird spell. Finally, the three of us worked out the script, laying the foundations with Csaba Mikó, who writes for theater mainly, like Örkény Theater. Then Bálint Barcsai edited it, put the whole story together” -director Mátyás Szabó introduced us to the beginning.
In the story, Ábel (Benett Vilmányi) is a young man with special abilities in his late twenties who works for a child rescue company led by the blind Professor Fellegi (Andor Lukáts). If he closes his eyes, he will be able to see through the eyes of lost children and thus help him find them. His work is his life, which he shares only with the old lady, Aunt Mituk (Mari Nagy). However, everything changes when he makes a mistake and joins at the sight of an adult woman, Vera (Petra Hartai).
Thanks to her, he begins to see the world differently and a special relationship begins to develop between them. They get closer and closer to each other, but this unusual harmony cannot be maintained forever.
Mátyás Szabó asked Benett Vilmányi to appear in the film, to whom suited the character well. „From the beginning, I trusted in Mátyás’ choice and adapted to what was put on paper. I could easily identify with the character because we have a lot of similar attribution.”
Petra Hartai had a bigger challenge identifying with Vera’s role: „It was hard to find Vera in myself and connect well with her. Plus, I’m socialized on stage, which is a completely different role. But there was also a rehearsal process before filming, and I started learning Vera during this time.”
The actress from the theatrical world was also new to the film scenes, as she had to undress her theatrical instruments. „I couldn’t play like a stage actress, because even a look in the film is enough, and to find the saturation in which you can be born at any time, it could have been a sentence. I had maximum confidence that if I could feel what I needed; it would already be visible in my eyes. I also trust the director, he is my outer eye, he always formulates and instructs very precisely, and we understand each other in half words, I can create and exist in a safe environment.”
The visual world
Cinematographer Kristóf M. Deák has previously worked with Mátyás Szabó in the film “Border”, which also reached the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. „In terms of visual world, there is no specific film to be mentioned as one reference, but at least 5-6 films that make up the palette, and the film has a central element, the subjectivity, this is seeing through the other eye, which is a fantasy element, it puts the whole movie in a special atmosphere. But the main story is Abel and his love, and its evolution.”
When I asked Kristóf M. Deák about how to work together, he emphasized that the work is easy because they coordinate and discuss the processes throughout. „We put the film together, step by step, while watching different moods from the movies. One of Matyás‘ great favorites is the film “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, for example, an important reference to the “Wandering leaves”. “Children of Men” film will be set in the near future and try to show the world today, but their visual world has a very good level of substance.”
Due to subjecting, a handheld camera was used a lot. „We also shot the visual world to have a kind of naturalness, it can be eclectic and natural, which moves towards a good kind of realism.”
There were also plenty of challenges: „Actress Petra Hartai and I tried to stand behind her and move together, if she reached for something, so did I. And from Abel’s perspective, the challenge was to present a world that was constantly opening outward. From obedience to getting freedom to be a priority and visually we can follow it all perfectly from his point of view. It’s a question of how successful it is, if it goes well, viewers will also feel the atmosphere of the film.”
„I’ve been into the Incubator program before, but I knew it was hard to get into. I figured out the story from the start so I could realistically see how much support I could get. I helped a lot with directing, so I can figure out what has a high financial cost. If I can do something that stands out from other movies, it’s if there’s some magic, something peculiarity in it. Creating this, however, was a more costly genre, and it was also an exciting challenge: how to find the golden mean.” – stated the director Mátyás Szabó, about receiving the support and participating in the Incubator.
I also asked the director about the formation of the story and how the final form that he eventually dreamed of on screen was formed. „At first, it didn’t seem like a difficult process, because I quickly figured out the main story thread, but when I started working out the details, there was already a longer process going on. I asked the question: how can I find myself in the protagonist, what is it that if I had such a trait in me, it could be exciting?
So I started to imagine very little ideas of what was going to take the story in an exciting direction, and when that excitement started to go away, I put the story aside a bit and then touched it again later. It was a long process”
One of the references was the film “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” mentioned earlier.
„In that, too, the love affair is captured quite elementally, and there is a fairytale element in the story, and the film “Her” is also an important basis for the “Wandering leaves” starring Joaquin Phoenix, and it is also a story focusing on human relationships. Our film is an East Central European fantasy. They are important elements of drama and love, and in addition to these, the fairy-tale is also important. There are many love movies, but there are few in which such a fairy tale element plays an important role, which is why I thought it was interesting to incorporate this.”
The producer world
According to producer Petra Iványi, Mátyás Szabó has already very consciously written his film for the Incubator Program. „After all, in the framework of the competition, we have already submitted a plan that also took into account the financial constraints of this, so we did not write a film with 400 actors but planned for a more modest budget.
Every good director-producer relationship is based on mutual trust. We listen to each other’s opinions back and forth. We’ll also argue if we have to. We try to allocate the small budget as efficiently as possible to serve the interests of the film. I’m part of the process from reading the first treament, commenting on a script, but I’m not writing myself.”
„The film will be ready in 2022 and we would be happy to see it in Karlovy Vary because we feel that the story could be closer to the festivals of the surrounding countries also due to the Central and Eastern Europeanness of the story. It is important that I understand this film in these countries, it is easier to identify than elsewhere. The Czechs would probably interpret the story well” – added Mátyás Szabó.