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VENICE 2018 Competition

László Nemes • Director of Sunset

“Sometimes we have the illusion of understanding our world”


- VENICE 2018: We sat down with Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes to get the lowdown on Sunset, his new effort

László Nemes  • Director of Sunset
(© La Biennale di Venezia - foto ASAC)

Hungarian director László Nemes assisted Béla Tarr on The Man from London [+see also:
film review
film profile
 and subsequently studied film directing at New York University. His first feature, Son of Saul [+see also:
film review
Q&A: László Nemes
interview: László Rajk
film profile
, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015, was awarded the Grand Prix, and later received both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Foreign-language Film in 2016. Sunset [+see also:
film review
interview: László Nemes
film profile
 is his second feature film and is playing in competition at the Venice Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: This is your second film, and they both have such a singular perspective: what is it about that perspective that attracts you?
László Nemes: I’m really interested in the subjective experience and how interesting our subjective experiences can be, yet it’s interesting how little cinema conveys this experience in movies. Films are moving more and more towards being about finding an objective perspective, and the camera can be everywhere. We are moving away from a unique standpoint. 

This is reflected in a camera that hangs on Irisz’s every move, just as it did with the protagonist in Son of Saul.
There is a technical similarity in both films, as they stay with the main character. We are in a labyrinth uncovering the world from their perspective, and in Sunset, we wonder about the brother: who is he? What happened with the family? And who am I? It’s a question for the self, and that is something that I’m interested in, as well as why we are with her throughout the whole film. 

There is new information everywhere she goes; she is overloaded with information, and often it’s hard to comprehend. Why did you do this?
I think with present-day advances in information technology and the constant reassessment of the past, and with there being so many academic papers, sometimes we have the illusion of understanding our world. I think cinema also gives people the impression of knowing everything, and that has had an impact on the dramatic level, on the visual level and on the way things are represented. This is a new perspective. 

Are there any parallels between the Austria-Hungary shown in your film and the present-day divides in Europe?
It is your job as journalists to make that comparison. There are certain trends in common, and there are other similarities today with how things were 100 years ago. In both periods, there’s a love of technology, and there’s a belief that we are invincible and that death doesn’t exist. Today, we have a virtual world and a virtual image of ourselves where we are in an ideal state and where we are almost like angels. We are not angels, and this film is about self-destruction.

What do you see as the biggest threat to society today? 
I think it’s the complete trust in technology advancement and that addiction to it, which leads to the end of desire because everything is about immediate satisfaction. Cinema is also now like that: there is no possibility for the audience to immerse themselves.

The film is very frustrating to watch sometimes.
It’s a movie about frustration. I admit that I’m guilty as charged because frustration is part of the process, especially in a world where you don’t want to feel like that and want immediate satisfaction. I am completely against this trend.

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