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“The chaos, the tension and the pressure”

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Kornél Mundruczó • Director

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- CANNES 2017: Hungarian filmmaker Kornél Mundruczó reveals the secrets of Jupiter’s Moon, competing at Cannes

Kornél Mundruczó • Director
(© Adrian Barci / Jupiter's Moon)

Kornél Mundruczó talks us through the genesis ofJupiter’s Moon [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Kornél Mundruczó
film profile
]
, a dazzling film that blends the fantastic and miraculous with the issue of immigration in a society on the brink of becoming a police state. The film has brought this Hungarian director, winner of the Prix un certain regard in 2014, to Cannes for the 70th Cannes Film Festival, in what will be his third time in the official competition.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: How did you come up with the idea of a refugee who could fly?
Kornél Mundruczó: When I was fourteen years old, I read a book called The Flying Boy, and I asked myself, should I believe in this or not? I wanted to create a story that continually makes people ask themselves the same question: “Should I believe in what I am seeing or not?” It’s about the personal relationship between the viewer and what is being shown on screen, and it creates a space of freedom for the audience. I went to a refugee camp four years ago, before the crisis, and I came away very moved. I spent three weeks filming videos there. It’s a complex issue, but it all seemed so cruel to me... It was like a mirror reflecting a question back on me: “What does it mean to be European?” And for me it posed a moral question as well: “What can we have, and what can we not have?” Eventually, those two elements became intertwined in the idea, “...and what if a refugee could fly?”

The pace of the film is frenetic. In contrast, the pace of your earlier films was much more measured. Why is that?
I wanted to adopt a cinematic language that reflected the chaos, the tension and the pressure that I feel every day in Budapest at the moment. I didn’t want it to let up even for a second. The camera and the actors are constantly moving so that there is no time to stop and think. Pressure, pressure, pressure! There are no answers, and the film falls over more often than it flies. This velocity was also essential for a story that resembles one of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings of hell, because as soon as we get up close we get lost in the details. I wanted to transpose that idea to film — the idea that the viewer will leave the cinema without having been able to think about the story, and only later will the pieces start to slot together. Obviously, there is a story — the doctor’s story — but I tried to obscure it with polyphonic music all the way through. If the film has a message, it’s that this pressure is a reflection of our environment and the fear we feel at the present time. I don’t know if we can escape them, but being up there all the time might be one way of doing that.

What can you tell us specifically about the special effects used to create the impression of flight at various points in the film? Was it difficult?
I used to think that nothing could ever be more difficult than working with 200 dogs, like I did for White God [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Kornél Mundruczó
film profile
]
, but making a character fly was much harder. However, it was important for the film and it was the subject of a heated debate: should we actually show him flying, or just people’s reactions? I opted for the former, because it challenges the audience, forcing them to decide whether this is credible or not and to respond to the film in a physical rather than an intellectual way. I’m actually very happy with the result, in terms of the visual quality.

Was it hard to get financing for the film?
Really hard. And it wasn’t a particularly expensive film. I like films with crowds and movement, and creating those kinds of scenes. For example, I’m a big fan of Akira Kurosawa’s early work. What I’m trying to say is that I see cinema as a spectacle, and that costs money. The budget for this film was four million euros, which is quite tight for a film of this kind. At the moment, we are trying to decide whether to go ahead and shoot a studio film in the US that has Bradley Cooper and a really great script, but doesn’t have 100% of the funding in place. I’m also planning to wrap up a trilogy; I had tried to make Jupiters Moon in the UK years ago, but when I got fed up of waiting I came back to Hungary to film White God, which follows on from the idea behind Jupiters Moon. Both films have common origins, but Jupiters Moon is darker and gives the audience a bumpier ride. I hope to conclude the trilogy with an adaptation of the novel Ice by Russian author Vladimir Sorokin.

How do you think the film will be received in Hungary?
I don’t know, but I’m really curious to find out. It’s all very contradictory, like my country; some people will love it and others will be dead against it. The film tries to be brave and takes a lot of risks in order to be provocative. Art, when it is authentic, is provocative. It’s like when I discovered Fassbinder, or when you’re in a museum and you come across a work of art and you say to yourself, “What on earth is this?” Wanting to create art in a film these days is very dangerous, because everyone wants to see TV when they go to the cinema.

(Translated from French)

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