István Szabó • Director of Final Report
“If one would still like to be with others in the future, the cinema will remain”
by David Katz
- Decorated Hungarian filmmaker István Szabó enlightens us about his melancholic and comic Final Report, which has just had its international premiere at Tallinn Black Nights
We were delighted to speak to Academy Award-winning director István Szabó about his new film, Final Report [+see also:
interview: István Szabó
film profile], which showed late last week at the just-concluded Tallinn Black Nights. A late-career bookend to his first feature, Age of Illusions, in terms of its personal subject matter, Final Report is the story of a charismatic doctor (Klaus Maria Brandauer, Szabó’s most famous lead actor) who loses his job in mysterious circumstances and returns to take up a post in his small hometown.
Cineuropa: What was the initial impetus for telling this story?
István Szabó: I was accidentally present when a medical professor was packing up in his hospital room after he had retired. He took his books and papers from his desk and put them in boxes, and removed the nameplate from his door.
The film has a very precise balance of comedy and tragedy. Was this a difficult tone to achieve?
We just tried to consciously tell a story as simply as possible. But every story is sometimes comical, sometimes tragic.
Final Report could be seen as a fond valentine to a generation of Hungarians who have lived through and endured enormous social change. Were you attempting to show contemporary Hungary through their eyes?
I can only look at everything with an eye that has already seen World War II, and a lot of things ever since. If I were to tell a 19th-century story, I would also look at what it has to do with today, what I see as its roots and what the resemblance is.
Was the lead role written with your famous regular collaborator Klaus Maria Brandauer in mind?
Yes, this role was written for Mr Brandauer. I am very glad that he accepted it again.
With the changes wrought by technology and, more recently, the pandemic, are you optimistic about the future of cinema as an art form?
The motion picture created the opportunity to capture the process of change on the living human face, in the human eye. So let us record and present to the viewer the process of the birth and change of emotions, their disappearance, and the emergence of new emotions. These moving images can also show values that have both more general and artistic value. Therefore, this technical possibility spawned a new form of artistic expression. Its originality is not the same as painting, literature, music or even theatre, because these are not capable of the same degree of intimacy or closeness as the motion picture – presenting the truth of the light of the eyes. The technique of recording and mediating may have changed many times, and even the cinema as a community space may disappear. But capturing the emotions and thoughts rippling on a living face and elevating them to the rank of art remains one of the wonders of humanity. Eureka! And if one would still like to be with others in the future, the cinema will remain.
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