Slipping Deep Into the Soul of Pictures

Bence Fliegauf, who originally wanted to become a writer, gained a foothold in the
film industry from a young age as a television assistant. Since then, as an
experimental filmmaker, he is a regular guest at the most prestigious film festivals
(Locarno, Berlin Film Festival), and he always impresses his audience by his
refreshingly multi­colored portfolio.

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‘Dealer’

“I was too jumpy to sit in one place for hours”. Short and rational explanation of why
Fliegauf, at the age of 21, did not land to the cultural sector as a writer, but studied
production design, and later accepted an assistant director job at the Hungarian
Television. This is where he got a practical insight to the filmmaking process, and
ultimately got the deep passion for pictures from the biggest masters of the Hungarian
cinema, just as Miklós Jancsó or Béla Tarr. And that was also the place, where, full of
adventure and encouraged by an in­house grant, he created his first documentary short
film about psychotic art, ‘Border Line.

And here we are, in 2001, which year marks the first success. ‘Talking Heads’, this 27­ minute short film is exactly what the title promises: six heads talking (one of them is Fliegauf himself), six mysterious stories around one circle of ideas. Fliegauf’s directorial debut received the Award for the Best Experimental Film at the Hungarian Film Week, which propelled him to be considered as one of the most promising film director in Hungary. His next documentary, ‘Is There Life before Death?’ had positive reactions from film critics, but finally ‘Hypnos’, a short film about a regressive hypnosis group opened doors towards international recognition. Fliegauf was awarded with Special Prize at Cottbus Film Festival in 2002. Eight years and seven films later, in 2010, the director gladly returned to Cottbus with his first English­language feature ‘Womb’, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

'Womb'

‘Womb’

In 2003, Fliegauf directed his first feature film, ‘Forest’, which won the Wolfgang Staudte Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, the International Film Critics’s Gene Moskowitz Prize and the Sándor Simó Memorial Award at the Hungarian Film Week. This Dogme­movie was shot with a very low budget, with non­professional actors in leading roles. “The film community was very difficult to get into and my position was not so good to make my first film, so I had to use non­actors. But I always want to learn something new.” He learned the lesson, and he did it with flair: what was a necessity at the beginning became later the director’s most characteristic working method in the long term. He kept working with amateur actors in ‘Dealer’ and ‘Just the Wind’ – just to mention the most popular ones.

After ‘Forest’, the festival­goers worldwide scarcely had time to take a breath because Fliegauf returned to the ring with a dark and minimalist second feature film, illustrating one day in the life of a drug­dealer. After having been premiered in the International Forum of New Cinema at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2004, ‘Dealer’ won several prizes at international festivals and in Hungary, including Best Director Award at the Hungarian Film Week, Jury Prize and Best Director Award at the Festival Internacional de Cine de Mar del Plata and Best Director Award at the GoEast Film Festival in Wiesbaden. Critics and spectators praised Fliegauf’s talent of creating a coherent world with strong and vibrant atmosphere, which may have happened because Fliegauf always have a complex vision of a movie. Sound and image are both equally important for him, therefore he does not act as chance directs. In the list of credits, his name appears several times: not only as writer and director, but also as production designer and sound designer.

After the success of Dealer, three short films have been shot in a raw: ‘The Line’, ‘From Europe to Europe’, and ‘Trance’. In 2007, Fliegauf won Locarno’s Golden Leopard in the experimental Filmmakers of the Present category with his new feature film, ‘Milky Way’. Inspired by Roy Andersson, Kurt Vonnegut, Laurie Anderson experimental performance artist and the philosophy of Alan Watts, Fliegauf created a meditation movie that blurs traditional borders between cinema and fine arts: the 75­minutes film is composed of static, meticulously arranged shots and a real orchestral score, and looks down on the human situation with the eyes of an alien.

'Just the Wind'

‘Just the Wind’

The next artistic experiment, ‘Sparkle’ (2008) is distantly related to ‘Talking Heads’: Fliegauf makes interviews with three people talking about their near­death experiences, about rebirth and enlightenment. In 2010, as result of a four­year hard work, Fliegauf’s first English­language film has been completed and premiered in Locarno. ‘Womb’ is the story of a young woman’s consuming love, but its genre is hard to be defined again. Mix of romance, science­fiction, drama, and fairy tale. The European co­production starring Eva Green and Matt Smith successfully made its way through the film festival circuit from Toronto to Mumbai.

Two years later, in 2012 we could see the triumphant march of ‘Just the Wind’, premiered in the competition at the 62th Berlin Film Festival, and awarded with the second most important prize, the Jury Grand Prix. The structure of the film is closely related to ‘Dealer’, it operates with a narrow timeframe, and shows the one day of a Hungarian Roma family from morning to night. The documentary­like, perfectly authentic fiction film was inspired by real events. In Hungary, between 2008 and 2009, a series of attacks targeted Romani people. Unknown racist people attacked four families, sixteen homes were firebombed with Molotov cocktails, sixty­three gun shots were fired from shotguns and other firearms. Six people were killed. Fliegauf spent a year in research, and wanted to focus to the potential victims. With its suffocating atmosphere, ‘Just the Wind’ makes the audience feel of what the victims may experience while they are being hunted.

“If you watch my films, they are all very different. Maybe the core is the same, but the surface and even most of what lies underneath it is very diverse. If I have something that forces me to go in one direction, I usually try to go in the opposite way.”

by Ildikó Ságodi

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