The Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi on filming a love story in a slaughterhouse, on the importance of looking under the surface of things and the meaning of dreams.
Ildiko Enyedi is one of five women ever, who won the golden bear of the Berlinale for best film. ©ZsoltMeszaros
Annika Kuhlmann: Mrs. Ildiko, how has your life been, since winning the Golden Bear of the Berlinale this year for your film „On Body and Soul“? Has it changed a lot?
Ildiko Enyedi: I travelled to Asia with the film and to Australia. The film seemed to function in quite different parts of the world the same way as it functions in Europe. It is a bit surprising, because I thought it would be different. I enjoy it a lot. It surely is one of the most important prices you can ever get as a filmmaker. Currently I am working on a new project and I am starting to teach a new filmmaking class for actors in the fall in Hungary.
Are you still going back and forth between Hungary and Berlin?
No, I just came here for the interviews. I used to be a lot in Cologne, but not anymore. That is the profession – sometimes it is to much and sometimes it is not enough work.
The film takes place in a slaughterhouse and has some really ruthless and honest shots of the process of meat productions. Why did you choose the setting of a slaughterhouse? Are you a vegetarian?
I am not a vegetarian, but I barely eat meat. For sure, if we can survive without killing other beings that would be great. And I think we can survive without it. Consuming meat is a part of our culture, but what is not? The point is, how do we keep and treat these animals? It is about what we do with them before we kill them? I find it absolutely unexceptable and I wanted to show this. I mean, it happens anyway if we show it, or if we don’t show it. But why shouldn’t we show it?
But, didn’t you think that you could change something by showing it? Wasn’t that your intention?
I think it is everybodys responsibility, to push the society even just a tiny bit in that direction, which doesn’t include unnecessary cruelty.
Mária falls in love with her colleague Endre at her workplace the slaughterhouse. © Inforg-M&M Film Kft
It is also the slaughterhouse where the love story takes place and the characters meet. Why did you choose this unusual location?
I wanted the two protagonists to have their personal life story in the surroundings of today and most of our surroundings are full of hidden cruelty and tenderness. That was the reason. It is quite an ordinary working place. Just imagine if it wouldn’t exist, the shops would be empty. It is a place with complex beings with feelings. You can read this it in the eyes of the animals. They become an object from one moment to the other. The place shows so many hidden aspects of our culture, that we don’t want to face, to speak or even think about. Usually people turn away and say: please don’t show it to us.
It was hard to look at those scenes, it must have been hard to film?
It was, but stragely enough the room where the slaughtering happened, was not the hardest thing. It is everything that happens beforehand. The animals standing there and waiting for their death. Those images were incredible. I really wanted to capture that. So we spend much time and energy, catching these tiny moments, which have nothing to do with the plot. The lunch break, the coffee break, it was important to film.
Where did you get the idea of the film from?
I really don’t know where the idea came from, but first of all you have to get great people, that is half of the film. The other half is preparation. If you have done these two things very well, you have an amazing shooting experience. Somehow you have to deeply involve everybody in what you are planning and I can’t stop to praise my coworkers how sensitive and exact they were and how high standard professionally. Everything was put in service of this film, of these characters, of the story.
Besides the love story, the film also seems to be a mirror of Hungarian society? Does it especially have to do with Hungary?
No. I really wanetd to make a timeless story, even in the choice of the clothes for example. So nothing is retrostyle. But we really made an effort to put this love story in a concrete place, in a concrete country, in a concrete location and in an aspect of a timeless story.
So your point is, corruption could happen in every country basically? Is it just human in the end?
Yes, it is a part of humanity.
The dream sequences are becoming less frequent throughout the film. Is the dreaming only a means to the end – in the end?
Absolutely. It is not just about being able to open up for another person. The dreams they share, give them the first push, to reconsider their whole life, to step out from their shelter and to risk something. Maria starts to experiment, to discover things. It is a kind of training for her, to feel the sunshine and the grass. Without all this, she wouldn’t be able to do so.
Do you think that something like this can happen in real life? That a dream can push you towards something?
It is an idea that I had for the movie, but of course it could be anything with a strong impulse that pushes you towards changing your life, which opens your perspectives for you.
The theme of soulmates. Is it something that people should associate with the protagonists?
That was not my intention. I wanted them to be special, but in a way every human being is special. First we see the surface, which is weird or even a bit unattractiv. For example Sanyi, the chef of the slaughterhouse, is a macho. But it is important to look behind the surface and see, that he is just a guy, who thinks this is a good way to survive in society, to be respected, to be accepted, to be loved.
There is also lots of humor in the film, and lots of tragedy – that changes quickly. Why did you chose to film it like that?
It was not a choice. It is like this in real life – nothing is just comedy or tragedy. It was so important for us, to show the funny side of the situation as well and to open the heart of the spectator. You can become anything with love and you can become a deeper character. And maybe you will approach these characters with more tenderness? You are less strict with them. It came quiet naturally to me, because this is how I function.
The dream sequences are beautiful shots of two dears meeting in the forrest. Why did your chose the dear as an animal?
Because they are the closest wild animals to the cattle. You see the same physical aspect and you see the difference in how we treat the animals. The film starts with the very dirty and tired legs of a cow on the matter sheet and it summarizes, they are dirty because of us not because they are animals.
How hard was it to film the sequel in the woods with the animals?
It was a strong experience to be in the mountains far from anything else, in the winter woods. We had to be there before sunrise and stay after sunset. It was really cold and that makes you feel very alive. It took us one week and we were shooting a lot. It was a beautiful experience for the whole crew, because you have to be very patient, but very awake at the same time, always ready to shoot. There is a scene with the running dear, that we were preparing with a horse.
You had a trainer with you?
Yes that was necessary.
The scenes turned out beautiful.
Yes, we had some incredible luck with the starting sequence. It were the last seconds before sunset, the very end of magic hour, when the dears started to move and interact like we wanted it. And immediately in that moment, it started to snow. We were amazed and very lucky.
Thank you for the interview Mrs. Enyedi.
Soho House, Berlin, 21.07.2017.