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Cannes Film Festival 
25th La Cinef Selection 2022 
 
Interview

Bianka Szelestey
Hajszálrepedés
May 22, 2022

Lenke has to face the fact to stop clinging to her relationship after her partner blurts out that he's breaking up, before a family dinner. Lenke goes through the stages of letting go but takes one last, desperate act to avoid it.

Hi Bianka, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these strange times?

 

Hey, thank you for having me! Well, it’s been a rollercoaster lately, that’s for sure.

 

This is the first time a student from the Film Studies MA at Eötvös Loránd University has been selected to Cannes and the La Cinef section of the festival, what has it meant to you to be able to represent your school with your film in Cannes?

 

It is a huge honour. It means the world to me to be able to represent my university. On a more personal level, it feels great to bring joy to my teachers and from an objective perspective, being the “first” makes it even more of an accomplishment for us – including my whole cast and crew – to be here representing a facility that hasn’t had a catchy name in the festival’s history. ELTE’s Film Theory specialization – the academic side – is internationally acknowledged but the practical training is rather young. I’m glad if we helped even a little to make it more well known and popular amongst future students.

 

What would you say have been the most valuable lessons you have taken from your time in the Film Studies MA program at Eötvös Loránd University?

 

To analyze everything. First of all, the people around me – how they behave or talk, their habits. Because all the observations add up to create their characters in my head.  Second of all, little details around us, for exp. how does a certain kind of noise make people feel on the tram or how a certain colour or the character of light can change a person’s aura. This kind of analytic approach to the world feels like the most crucial lesson about filmmaking to me. Analyzing a composition or the rhythm of editing is all built on this fundamental “cinematic” lifestyle” in everyday life. Our teachers may have analyzed movies and paintings but meanwhile, they thought us something more important which is to see and listen all the time. It can be exhausting sometimes because this way there’s no rest from work so to say.  

 

Another important lesson was another seemingly obvious one for me, that everything has meaning on the screen. If you want to make films you need to know what you want to say, what is the core of your idea and this essence needs to be there in every bit of your work. It needs to be there not just in the written dialogues and the acting but in every colour and texture in the set design, in every composition, every sound effect, and every edit point during postproduction. There is no insignificant detail even if the viewer will only see the general image, everything adds to the final emotional effect.

 

Congratulations on Hajszálrepedés being selected for the 25th La Cinef, where you are also nominated for the Cinefondation Award, will there be any pressure ahead of the festival?

 

Honestly, I haven’t even thought about the award until just recently, when everyone asks about it and sits fingers crossed, rooting for us to win. For me, it is already a huge honour to be part of the official selection of the festival. This is already a prize for me.

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Can you tell me how Hajszálrepedés came about, what inspired you to make this short?

I wrote the basic idea four years ago when I applied to the University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest. It was a task to write a short in 4 hours. I was not in the best emotional state because my boyfriend just broke up with me a few days ago. So pretty much affected by this impulsive experience, when I got up on the morning of the test, the first idea of "Hajszálrepedés" came to my mind.

The first thing that popped into my head was a scene with a hairdryer: a very close-up of a girl drying her hair and the curls flying around her. We only see small details on her face, we don't know who she is yet, but she has a painful look on her face. A boy moves around her, who turns out to be packing a suitcase because he is actually leaving her. In the film, the moment of the break-up is born from this hair drying. In the middle of their evening routine, one of them leaves the other which seems to be out of the blue but throughout the course of the evening, it shows how much the girl should have seen this coming.

 

What were the biggest challenges you faced bringing Hajszálrepedés to life and what was the hardest scene for you to film?

The biggest challenge for me was to figure out the specific ways to approach each and every one of my actors, to practice how to treat them totally different to get the result I wished for. Niké Kurta, who plays Lenke, the main character needed more personal space and more freedom in terms of choreography and improvisation, while the older actors, Anna Kubik and József Incze asked for way more precise instructions in terms of every line and every movement. The tone and the body language I had to use, were different for all of them. Different generations, different people. I needed time to adapt, I hope to learn more and more about this intuitive work in the future.

I always say that the breakup scene was the hardest for all of us. Originally we were going to start with something else, I wanted to shoot the scenes in chronological order, to try and really take the actors through the process of the events, but that didn't work out due to production reasons. So we all kind of jumped into it. The bathroom was also very small, the cameraman was standing in the bathtub, it was inches, so you couldn't see him in the mirror. The sound engineer, the focus puller, and I - not to mention the actors - were still in there, almost suffocating in the hot air. There was some kind of gas leak from the convector and the hairdryer was on.

 

When writing and directing a film like Hajszálrepedés how much flexibility do you allow yourself with your screenplay?

 

I try not to cling to the written words so much, only the essence needs to remain in focus. In terms of the dialogues, I am totally flexible until the words remain true to the character, I love working on the lines with actors, they always give more life to the original sentences.

 

As for the blocking and the dramaturgy of the scenes I am also flexible to a certain point while breaking down the scenes with the cinematographer and the actors. I love it if they add to my original idea if it strengthens it. On the other hand, if something doesn’t work for me, I stick to my original idea against anyone.

Looking back is there anything you would do differently on with film?

 

I would definitely insist on more rehearsals to dig deeper into all the characters and their relations to each other. I think that way the breakup scene could be richer in detail and even more lifelike. And there are some tiny details that bother only me, I would also fix those.

 

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

 

From all the aspects of my childhood. All the nights my father spent reading novels to me from a very early age, I couldn’t even talk. He projected slideshows of Grimm’s tales on the wall and watched a bunch of Disney movies with me on VHS. Until I couldn’t write, I drew – mostly faces – after I learned to write my stories weren’t visual enough for me so I started to take photos, when that wasn’t narrative enough I started to try and make films. This is a short sum-up.

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"I believe that this attention is the base of the stories they’re gonna write or direct. Of course, it goes without saying to read and watch as many films, paintings, and visually stimulating material as they can."

Has your style and the approach to your filmmaking changed much since your debut short?

 

Not too much, given that the base of “my style” is connected to the main topics that interest me, like dysfunctional relationships within a family, amongst friends or lovers, etc.

 

Are there any areas of filmmaking or themes you are keen to explore with future films?

 

I try to improve and experiment with more abstract forms in terms of visuality and more absurd, moving a little away from the strictly serious drama genre and the realistic style, but I still stick to slower, fundamentally realistic pieces focusing “inward”. I’d like to focus on family relations and malfunctions in general in human connections, anxieties, and the absurdity of life, exploring the absurd drama and dramedy genres.

 

Is there any advice or tips you would offer a fellow writer/director?

 

Live everyday life really listening and paying attention to the people around them. Study how and why they behave the way they do. I believe that this attention is the base of the stories they’re gonna write or direct. Of course, it goes without saying to read and watch as many films, paintings, and visually stimulating material as they can. And work on shootings! That experience one can get there beats any school in this profession.

 

And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from Hajszálrepedés?

 

Questions about their lives, I hope. Moments in which they recognize themselves or someone they know. That would be the biggest gift. I could say that I wish they recognize how hurtful and self-distorting it is to hold onto something that is already bad for us but I don’t want to generate solutions to anyone’s problems, not even Lenke’s. I only wish to raise questions.

For its 25th edition, La Cinef has selected 13 live-action and 3 animated shorts directed by 6 male directors and 10 women directors...Four of them are from schools taking part for the first time and these 16 shorts reflect the diversity of filmmaking education in the world.