The Wiesbaden goEast! Festival of Eastern and Central European Film's Portrait now shows, together for the first time, all of the young directors full-length fictions together with one full-length documentary and five shorts.
BENEDEK FLIEGAUF quickly established his reputation as a radical auteur filmmaker in Hungary. He has so far made three highly distinctive full-length fiction films, one long documentary, and a handful of experimental shorts. His films have attracted attention at festivals around the world. RENGETEG / FOREST won the Wolfgang-Staudte-Preis for best debut feature at Berlin in 2003, and TEJÚT / MILKY WAY (2007), his third feature, received the Golden Leopard in the “Contemporary Filmmakers” category at Locarno. DEALER / DEALER, his best-known work so far, was celebrated on the European festival circuit and won the Best Director award at goEast in 2004. The goEast Portrait now shows, together for the first time, all of the young directors full-length fictions together with one full-length documentary and five shorts. Benedek Fliegauf’s success at international festivals is striking, but not unique in the Hungarian film world. A young generation of filmmakers burst onto the scene in 2000 and was soon noticed outside the country. As well as Fliegauf, the group includes Ferenc Török (MOSZKVA TÉR / MOSCOW SQUARE), György Pálfi (HUKKLE / HUKKLE), Szabolcs Hajdu (FEHÉR TENYÉR / WHITE PALMS) and Kornél Mundruczó (JOHANNA / JOHANNA). Born in the late 1970s, these filmmakers passed through the kindergartens and schools of the late-communist era – or at least came into contact with such typically Eastern European patterns of socialization. As teenagers they experienced the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc and the short period of political awakening at the beginning of the 1990s. It was a generation who saw a new world opening up around them, and for whom the experience of individual and cultural mobility became formative. As young adults, they found themselves in a free, but disillusioned and highly polarized society in Eastern Central Europe.
Most of that generation of directors acquired their craft at the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest, many of them as pupils of the great filmmaker and pedagogue Sándor Simó. Only two directors, namely Benedek Fliegauf and Kornél Mundruczó, came to film by a less direct route, and began as outsiders. Yet it is precisely their work that carries forward (in their respective and very different ways) an important line of Hungarian experimental and auteur filmmaking tradition. This tradition is represented by the 86 year old Miklós Jancsó in the generation of old masters as well as by Béla Tarr (SÁTÁNTANGÓ / SATANTANGO, WERCKMEISTER HARMÓNIÁK / THE WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES), Péter Gothár (MEGÁLL AZ IDŐ / TIME STANDS STILL) or Ildikó Enyedi (SIMON MÁGUS / SIMON THE MAGICIAN) in the generation now around 50 years old.
The hallmark of Fliegauf’s films is existential experience of the world; his analytical gaze and unusually incisive social criticism is what sets them apart. His filmic narrative often follows an inner journey that unfolds before the viewer’s eyes in formally austere visual sequences. In other films, a nonlinear – but no less coherently designed – film language prevails, and expresses the loss of meaning. These are disturbing films, dark to the limits of the endurable (like DEALER / DEALER), or bizarre (like TEJUT / MILKY WAY), or absurd (like RENGETEG / FOREST). The viewer finds himself captivated in order to be challenged. The habitual forms of audio-visual reception are deliberately disabled, the conventional strategies of dealing with things – emotionally and analytically – are undermined.
The author-director Benedek Fliegauf is constantly exploring new creative paths. Not only does he write and direct his own screenplays, but under the name Raptors’ Collective he generally takes the credit for set design, sound design, music and casting. The collective is not so much an established group of contributors as the mode of cooperation the director cultivates for shooting his films. Non-actors are equally part of his concept, and Fliegauf has so far preferred to use people who suit the film characters rather than professionals. The spirit of kinship Fliegauf feels with the “do-it-yourself” movement that has been galvanizing the digital arts scene since the 1990s is clearly discernible. To obtain optimum results, he zestfully explores cutting-edge digital technologies while filming or while editing image and sound, and prefers to take a hands-on approach. The resultant films are precisely composed on all planes of effect – from theme and narrative structure over characterization and scenery up to the control of vision and sound.
BORN IN BUDAPEST IN 1974, Benedik Fliegauf learnt all aspects of his trade. After training as a stage designer, he worked on film sets, for instance as assistant director to Miklós Jancsó and Árpád Sopsits. He also worked as an arts journalist and made television documentaries for various Hungarian broadcasters. Even without the official sanction of the film academy, he soon convinced the trade of his talent and skills. During the preparations for HYPNOS / HYPNOSIS (2002), the short in which he addressed the taboo subject of incest, he came to the attention of the producer András Muhi. The producer invited Fliegauf along to the Inforg Stúdió, a workshop for experimental film founded in 1999. Fliegauf has completed his films there ever since. After the festival distinctions won by his lowbudget RENGETEG / FOREST were matched by a good run at Hungarian art-houses, Fliegauf’s name was established on the Hungarian film scene. His next film, DEALER / DEALER, received one of the highest subsidies payable by the Hungarian film funding board, approximately 320,000 euros. That sum illustrates just how limited financial resources are in his homeland. Whether the studio will be able to translate Fliegauf’s festival triumphs into international coproductions remains to be seen. Talks are already in progress.
Many internationally acclaimed Eastern European directors – including the Hungarians István Szabó and Márta Mészáros – made it their life’s work to express the specific historical memory of Eastern and Central Europa in a film language universally understood. The results dazzled the film world and shaped the image of Eastern European auteur cinema. Benedek Fliegauf has chosen a different route. He does not deal with regionally specific experiences but with the experiences shared by Europe as a whole. And for each story he seeks a form that is adequate, a cinematic language of his own. This strategy certainly raises problems of identity. But it remains to be seen whether his method might not lead to the creation of new identities altogether.