15th ÉCU Film Festival | 2020
"My screenplay only started to make sense, when I threw out lots of elements, that as a director, I wanted to make, but they weren’t serving the dramaturgy at all."
My Cat Socrates
The Greek philosopher Socrates returns as a stray cat. He is taken in by Viola, who is desperately fighting for independence in the stifling milieu her mother has built around her. Everyone who surrounds Viola has opinions on her unstable spirit, yet Viola finds the company of the cat more entertaining.
Hi Villő thank you for talking to TNC, how are you handling the lockdown?
I’m a bit sad that I’m not preparing for my trip to the festival in Paris right now, but the suffering around us overweighs my personal wishes. I think the least we can do is to stay at home, and keep ourselves busy.
As a filmmaker is this experience providing you with some creative motivations?
It’s tricky. I don’t necessarily like to jump on the new themes. It sure has given me a lot of time to develop my new project, and has opened new aspects to my original idea, but in this period, we are all waiting with fear for our loved ones, and we hear a lot of tragedies. I hope it won’t last long.
Your film My Cat as Socrates has been selected for the 2020 ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what has it meant to you to be part of this unique film festival for independent filmmakers?
I’m quite shy with showing my work, so it was a big encouragement to be selected. It has been a great honour, and it really boosted my motivation to become a director.
My Cat as Socrates is your debut film, did you have any apprehensions about directing a film based on your own screenplay?
I did. It’s hard, because being young and a newcomer you feel this urge to say so much, often too much, and being the scriptwriter, you really have to control that. My screenplay only started to make sense, when I threw out lots of elements, that as a director, I wanted to make, but they weren’t serving the dramaturgy at all.
How much did you experience at film school in Budapest prepare you for your directorial debut?
It did prepare me with some technical knowledge, but I also had some great teachers, who helped me deepen my theoretical insight. I find this to be more important than any technique, especially for a young creator. It helps greatly with the judgement of my own work, and with clarifying my point.
"I also learned a lot about the practical aspect of directing and building up a story. "
Can you tell me a little bit about My Cat as Socrates, what was the inspiration behind this film?
I find a lot of inspiration in reading philosophy. I also find it quite amusing, when people post inspirational quotes online. I thought it would be funny, if my story had a similar, elementary quote, that for once, happens to be true. Socrates’s line “I know that I know nothing” is quite overlooked in today’s society, but it’s rather essential for critical thinking and helps avoid getting caught up in meaningless trends.
What was the most challenging aspect of bringing this film life?
Everybody, who read the synopsis warned me about the dangers of working with an animal, especially a cat. I too, was quite worried, especially about losing a lot of time with teaching him the choreography before every scene, but he proved all of us wrong. He was super easy-going and understood his role perfectly. For example, when he first saw the statue of Socrates, he immediately snapped at it with his paws, giving us a feeling that he knew something already.
Looking back do you think there is anything you would have done differently?
I would make some changes in the screenplay, but I’ve come a long way in accepting and liking the outcome. When we started to put the whole thing together, and I watched the first scenes, I was quite horrified, but now I see that feeling as one of the most important lessons. I think being critical with everything I do is very educative.
As this is your debut film what would you say have been the biggest lessons you've learnt from this process?
Like I said, I learned that being horrified is actually a good thing. I also learned a lot about the practical aspect of directing and building up a story. Most importantly, I learned to share my ideas with a team, and it was awesome to get honest help and effort in response.
"To find a message for today is important, but I also wish to observe the core meaning of a story."
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I had a passion for writing, but that’s about it. My passion for filmmaking came when I started understanding the meaning and narrative of classical cinema more deeply.
These films had a great impact on my thinking and understanding.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given when you started out?
The best advice came from my father, who helped me understand why film is so essential and unique, the importance and complexity of building up a story by pictures, and finding the key symbols that let you do that in depth.
Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers about to make their own debut film?
Focus on the moral perspectives, and pick your actors well. My film would have never made sense, if it hadn’t been for the fantastic actresses and actors I was lucky enough to work with. It’s great for the screenplay too. Writing down a thousand words will never be as authentic as an actress saying one word, and portraying the rest.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a story that is set one hundred years ago, but the message seems to have become more timely in these days. In a poor environment, a family has lost all their hope for survival, and the eldest are forced to make a great sacrifice. I find that movies with eternal themes have the biggest impact on me, and I wish to experiment with ideas that are relevant throughout history. To find a message for today is important, but I also wish to observe the core meaning of a story.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from My Cat as Socrates?
I hope to shed light on the importance of self-mocking humour, and on the possibility that some cat out there may know better than us.