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Péter Mészáros • Director

Kythera disembarks on Dutch soil

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Péter Mészáros • Director

No stranger to the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Péter MészárosAfter Rain screened there in 2003 after winning the Golden Palm for Best Short Film at Cannes the previous year. His latest feature, Kythera, has been on the international festival circuit since its world premiere at Locarno in 2006 and will be part of Rotterdam’s Time and Tide section this year. Taking inspiration from Antoine Watteau’s 18th century painting Embarkation for Cythera, the film depicts the painful, timeless story of a modern-day couple grappling with a relationship where passion no longer exists, and perhaps never did.

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Cineuropa: What inspired you to bring together such diverse elements in creating the story?
Péter Mészáros: It’s difficult to pinpoint the moment when the picture met my plot in the past. I always had some aspects of the plot, the scenes, fragments of my feelings. Suddenly, they “met” the picture. I had a melancholy view of the painting, the same as my characters’ view. And I found the melancholy of my story, suddenly I discovered the relationship between the two. Then came the question of how to build these aspects into a whole story.

Your film is a wholly Hungarian production, which is rather unusual. How simple or difficult is it to finance a film in Hungary?
A typical Hungarian budget is €1m and there is a point system for receiving state money from the Hungarian Film Foundation. The amount of points, and thus money, you can receive (up to 65% of your budget) for a new film depends on several factors: the success of your film abroad, if you achieved over 100,000 admissions, if you were selected at an A-level festival (100 points) or a B-level festival (50 points). If you win an Oscar or a Palme d’Or, you can get up to €500,000.

This gives you a small advantage when submitting your project to an annual call for tenders and means you don’t start from nil. The rest of the budget usually comes from private investors and, even more typically, international co-producers, Eurimages, ARTE, and so forth.

What is your view of the recent success of a number of Hungarian films abroad?
Hungarian filmmakers want to take a position of “suffering” to get more money but we can say that we don’t need to suffer, even if it is less simple now to shoot a 35mm feature than it was 30-40 years ago. However, although a path has opened for us at European festivals, this recent success of Hungarian films is one thing, distribution another! For example, Taxidermia [+see also:
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and White Palms [+see also:
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interview: Szabolcs Hajdu
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were international co-productions with strong distributors behind them so many aspects were already decided before shooting.

What expectations do you have from Rotterdam?
Rotterdam is a strong distributors festival and the film’s selection has interested some Dutch distributors, who will hopefully pick it up.

What is your next project?
I will first shoot a television film, at the end of April or May, and am currently working on a new feature with the working title The Cold November of the Crows. The film’s theme is not just Hungarian but European. It will be about the oppression of Catholic priests, who are not supposed to have any contact with women. This is the biggest lie in history – they’ve always had contact, only secretly. However, my film does not want to judge this, only to ask why this exists and why we hide it. It will be about crime and passion and will also involve a murder. I’m looking for a wider audience than simply an arthouse audience. This is the main aim of my next project!

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