István Szabó prepares The Door
by Fabien Lemercier
21/11/2008 - Multiple award-winning Hungarian director István Szabó is currently working on his European co-production, The Door, which will start shooting next summer. The film is adapted from the Magda Szabó novel, a best-seller in Hungary that won the 2003 Fémina Award for Foreign Literature in France and has been translated into 36 languages.
The book centres on the bond that develops between two very different women separated by a cultural and social gulf and recounts the tragic end to their relationship. On its publication, the title received an enthusiastic response from critics, some of whom described it as "a combination of naturalism and intimate literature, humorous anecdote and Balzacian drama, social commentary and thriller."
Co-written by the director and Andrea Vészits, the film centres on a young, emerging novelist and her housekeeper, an old woman named Emerence, who is no ordinary home-help. Silent and uncompromising, she turns out to have extraordinary energy and numerous strange habits.
Although the entire neighbourhood knows and respects her, nobody knows anything about her private life or has ever been inside her house. It’s not until tragedy strikes the young writer that Emerence decides to reveal fragments of her traumatic past, which shed light on her peculiar behaviour.
Szabó is the only Hungarian filmmaker to have won an Oscar for a feature: Mephisto won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1981, as well as Best Screenplay at Cannes. A three-time winner at Locarno (Best Debut Film in 1965, Special Jury Prize in 1967 and Golden Leopard in 1974), he has also scooped honours at Berlin (Silver Bear in 1979 and Special Jury Prize in 1992) and Cannes (Jury Prize in 1985 for Colonel Redl).
Szabó’s Hollywood period was marked by films such as Being Julia, which earned Annette Bening a Golden Globe Award and a Best Actress Oscar nomination in 2005. The director then returned to his homeland and made Relatives (2006).
Szabó is also the current president of the FERA (European Federation of Audiovisual Directors - see interview).
Co-produced by Hungary’s Film Art and Germany’s Intuit Pictures, The Door will have a €5m budget. The Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary, Hungarian Television and the Media Programme have already provided €2m in backing. Other partners are expected to get behind the project and the screenplay will be pitched today at the 6th Franco-German Film Meetings in Hamburg.
(Translated from French)