Your first full-length feature, Son of Saul, won you the Grand Prix at Cannes last year as well as the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. What does that mean for a director who is just starting out on his career?
Well, I haven’t really got my head around these things yet or got to grips with the changes in my life. It helps to strengthen your confidence, but it also brings a certain humility. You tell yourself that you have to keep your feet on the ground.
Is it also a source of pressure?
I had such limited funds for my first movie that, now I’ve got more for the second, I will be a little less pressurised by financial restrictions. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be any, but it does mean that I will be able to have a little more fun making this second film.
This year you have come back as a member of George Miller’s Jury. How are you coping with your new role?
I’m trying above all to be a cinema-goer, to experience the films without knowing what they are about beforehand, to watch them like a spectator. I believe in a cinema which produces an immediate feeling, but which also leaves a lasting mark on the spectator. It’s rather a strange position being a juror, especially when I have only made one picture, but I hope my voice will have some meaning in the Jury.
What kind of a cinephile are you?
I like movies that surprise me, and that leave space for the imagination to work. Kubrick is my benchmark, Antonioni too; you see that I tend to set the bar very high.
“I really like it when the cinema keeps something back, when it doesn’t spread everything out in front of you. That’s the difference with television; the television mindset is gaining ground on the cinema and I hope the cinema will be able to resist.”
Before Son of Saul, you worked in particular with Bela Tarr on the scenario of The Man from London, which was in Competition en 2007. What did you learn from him?
I learnt the importance of working as a team. I learnt that the cinema is a craft, and that you must know how to shape your material. It’s a long process, it’s difficult. There are challenges and problems.
Then the time came to make your own film, Son of Saul. You chose to avoid any form of aesthetics or overstatement. Was that a choice dictated by the subject or is it more generally your way of understanding the cinema?
For Son of Saul, we did not allow ourselves any sort of aesthetic treatment, but in my second film, we can take more pleasure in the way we look at things. I hope that it won’t be a cinema that is too self-regarding. That is a temptation that we must resist. In a sort of Bressonian way, I think it’s important to force yourself to go against the easy trends in the cinema.
Are you sometimes tempted?
We are tempted by demons of course. I think it’s a danger that stalks us constantly, especially in this digital age. Instead of seeing digital innovations for what they are and using them as resources, we have a tendency to let them become ends in themselves, what the cinema is about. It leads to an overload of special effects and increasing automation, which impoverishes the cinema. When you can do anything, there are no more challenges. You leave no room for the spectator, for the imagination. You want to show everything just because you can. It becomes artificial and in the end you don’t believe in it. We become superhuman through the computer. Human subjectivity gets lost.
You are already preparing your next film. What will it be about ?
It's a movie that takes place in Budapest in 1915. It's the story of a young woman, and it's a film about mystery...