Come Friday night, Hungary will be the second country in the world to release the Venice sensation “Poor Things” at Cinefest Miskolc (thanks to the relentless efforts by the duo of artistic director Geza Csakvari and Forum’s Head of PR Mate Takacs). At the Venice press conference we asked the filmmakers, Production Designers James Price and Shona Heath and Director Yorgos Lanthimos to share their experiences shooting the entire film during Covid – in Hungary.
From Glasgow to London to Lisbon to Paris you had to build and find locations to create the magical visuals that make this film so special. How and why did you end up in Budapest?
James Price: “We actually went on a bit of a European tour, Producer Kasia Malipan and myself, to find a city or a place that we could make this movie because Yorgos wanted to originally build everything, so it would be a complete studio picture. However, time and budget meant that we had to pick a handful of locations, but not many. And the reality is, outside of London, there’s nowhere else in Europe we could’ve made this movie that doesn’t have the sound stages.
For one, you have two very big studios there that we used, Korda and Origo, and also the infrastructure of the crews there. They are able to facilitate and do, on a regular basis, big, huge movies. And we weren’t in that scale, but we had ambitions with our sets that we wanted to build and create a world that’s pretty big in scope. So, we, at one point, had, I think, three quarters of the construction crews working for us on our sets. We became so big that we were like a self-eating snake. We were losing crafts … I’d be like, “Where’s that painter gone today?” And then you’d turn up on Lisbon and they’d have just been, “Well, they were in London and they’re working for different companies.”
So, the reality is, there’s nowhere else in Europe, other than London, that we could’ve made it. And the craftsmanship and quality was outstanding. The art department, skill level of the art directors and the crafts people and everybody were first rate and really humbling. And the sculpture at work and everything about it was quite incredible. And Budapest has good steam baths, as well.”
Shona Heath: “Yeah, but the cities themselves, they weren’t locations. They were built. So, London, Paris, and Lisbon, they weren’t locations, they were built from scratch. So, we needed the big studios there.”
Yorgos Lanthimos: “We had a great time in Budapest. It was a very unique experience for all of us, to be honest. And yeah, I think, when we left, we missed it immediately. No? I did. But also, I wanted to leave. You never have an incredible time making a film. The city was great, but at some point, you just have to leave.”
Once a happy customer, Lanthimos may become a return customer. Especially if that unique Budapest experience is crowned with an award (or two…) by the Damien Chazelle led jury at the 80th Venice Film Festival Saturday evening…