Péter Tímár participated at the 29th Hungarian Film Week with yet another comedy
Yes, yes, Feri's Gang, that's what
it is called in English - I heard Péter Tímár say into his
mobile telephone when I entered the editing room to make an
interview with him about his most recent film, Zimmer Feri. (N.
B.: following this short conversation, he turned off his mobile
and put it away.)
Your previous film, Dollybirds, award-winning at the 28th Hungarian Film Week, although shown on television, continues to be screened in movie theatres. How come that you have completed your next film in such a short time, within less than a year?
The screen-play has been ready for four years, which was when I submitted it in a tender issued by the Hungarian Moving Picture Foundation. It was subsequently rejected and I threw it into my drawer. Last year an old acquaintance of mine called, saying he knew about a freight company who much liked Dollybirds, and the income it generated even more so, which was why they thought they could invest money into a film that I would do. Then I met Mr. Gábor Kálomista, who informed me that a limited company called Megafilm Ltd. had already been set up only to make a film with me, and asked me if I wanted to do it. I said of course I wanted to do it, and took the screen-play of Zimmer Feri out of my drawer. In three weeks' time we were shooting the film...
Did you not even need a dramaturge?
With Andrea Vészits we did do a lot of corrections in the screen-play... But I have never before been in such a fantastic situation! So far the studio directors had me rewrite the screen-play all the time, while Kálomista told me they should let me take care everything, the actors, the crew, etc.
Did they set any constraints on the money-side, though?
They told me they wanted the budget of Dollybirds, to which I said that was a budget I was never going to settle for again, because it had been outrageously low, that the film had been shot in miserable circumstances, and that I already then I said that I was not going to do it again. We did manage to agree eventually, that the budget would be of the same dimension, and the project was launched in a hurry, which meant I had to find my actors in two weeks' time, a thing that is almost impossible practically.... we found a nice little holiday resort on the Roman Beech of the Danube, just like as if it was at Lake Balaton, which was a place we could not possibly have shot at because of the scheduling of the actors - not to mention the cost side. It is a great pity that my director of production gravely underestimated everything, calculating with a budget of 65 million, while right now we have come up to 85 million, or I do not know what, because the commercials have just started... Yet the producer has not mentioned money a single time. In one word, I could work in unprecedented circumstances, I was allowed to decide everything, nobody poked his nose into anything, and although Gábor Kálomista was there during the shooting, it was in his capacity as a supporter... I was working in so ideal conditions, that it was inevitable that something should happen, and the accident happened on the last but one day of the shooting. Like in Magic Hunter: wherever I had tried to hide, this ball would have hit me...
Why? Why did you have a feeling of having to settle a bill somewhere?
I can't explain it, but I had that very strong feeling. One has to pay for everything, nothing is given for free. Also Dollybirds has been given to me, for which I had paid during the shooting then...
What had happened exactly?
We were shooting the shooting scene with Galla, I stood right behind the door, covered by it, and this fake-bullet, this India -rubber capsule, which was to imitate hitting the wall, dashed from the door-post right against me. We shot the shootings in three-groups, that was the last one. The chance of it hitting me was almost zero, but it did hit me, and I collapsed immediately. The camera was working just when it happened, and I took care to edit the film so that it would show the bullet that had hit me. This event had one result, which is that since then protection clothes and spectacles have been made compulsory, for every member of the crew. As for me, I shall always have to wear spectacles now.
No problem, it suits you well... whom did you work with in this film?
Director of photography was Péter Szatmári again, and the decoration artist was András Gyürky. The music was composed by the same pair of people, Závody and Madarász, who in Dollybirds - assisted by the group "Kispál és a borz" - rewrote the majority of the music. An entirely new musical world was required here, as there is a Cuban girl in it (played by a female student from Cuba studying in Hungary), who is employed by Feri Zimmer and his friends because there is not a single coloured waitress at the lake, for all the Germans would love to have them there.. The main character is played by Gábor Reviczky, he is Feri Zimmer, his wife is Judit Pogány, their daughter is Vanda Kovács, the actress known from Dollybirds, while her fiancé is played by József Szarvas. These four together are there to rip off people. Renting a house at the shore of Lake Balaton, they open a small hotel and a restaurant with the firm purpose of getting rich in a single summer. They need to buy a home for their daughter on one hand, and they are head over heels in debt on the other. Then all they want is disappear quickly, because they hate catering and hate Germans. But that's what one can get rich with quickly at present. Feri's favourite saying is : "Do we have capitalism? All right. The survival of the surviving? All right. Do the large fish eat the small fish? Let them enjoy their meal!" This is his way of making us feel how much they are at the mercy of their own circumstances, that it is fate that wants to have it like this, that they can't do anything against it. Feri and his family employs his wife's nephew, Peti (played by Attila Bíró, often seen in commercials, a very talented actor) for arranging various affairs. They also employ the Cuban student, Lucia, as a waitress. The "wicked kid" and Lucia, "the two exploited" are allies by necessity. The Zimmer family, upon Peti's idea, catch their guests by throwing nails on the road in front of the house, causing the puncture of tyres, which prompts guests to stop at the hotel. They catch two public health officers in disguise, (Erika Ozsda and László Szacsvay), who, realising the something is wrong here, decide to rent a room and stay to do a control.
Why, what is wrong there?
The service is scandalous, as is the quality of the food served. As the cheated Germans, following a major quarrel, leave, unusual Hungarian guests start moving into the hotel. First there is a couple, (Natália Nagy and László Méhes), the woman kind of a health-freak, the man a weakling, not knowing himself what had taken him into the situation he is in, but the fact is that the two of them are swindlers who had made twenty million with Chain-Bridge Bonds, and are consequently pursued by the cheated bond-holders. All sorts of gangs are after them, i.e. Gergő Kaszás, the pimp, - and still a beginner of the profession - selling Réka Gévai as a prostitute, then the Mafia led by Attila Magyar... Then comes a plain-clothes detective, (Miklós Galla). All pretend to be on holiday, while all are trying to get hold of the money, apart from the swindlers who are trying to keep it. An unexpected shooting prompts them to disappear, which results in the others also taking French leave, which in its turn causes Feri to loose his wit. Summer is soon over, and no income has yet been made.
Feri is taken to the madhouse. In two weeks' time everything is under control, the hotel is full of guests who are satisfied, as the wife has taken over the management, doing things as they should be done. Suddenly Feri comes in, wearing pyjamas. He has not been cured yet, but there is no room for him in The madhouse, and he has been sent home. Not knowing where he is, he is led through the hotel by Peti. When he asks where he is, the answer is "in the madhouse". "That's all right" - says Feri with relief. Then the fiancé starts ringing a bell - according to the custom established by Feri in his own time, chanting "Mittagessen, Mittagessen". Then Feri starts laughing, asking what this madman is doing here, what this mittagessen means... And that's the end of the film.
When you wrote this four years ago, what topical event, in addition to the well known phenomena of the era, made you start telling this story?
I have for a long time felt an interest in what was going on at Lake Balaton, which I think is shameful. What makes this story entirely absurd is that hotel-owners live almost only of Germans, while they simply can't stand them. The story is topical even today, and perhaps even more so. In the four years that have elapsed, we have even learnt to see things clearer. Because I do not think that what we are having here is the wild version of capitalism. When back in 1947 the Hungarian Workers' Party took a turn towards socialism, then, in parallel, a conscious process of re-education was also launched, which was going on for years. Those in power literally taught people what socialism was. While now we have just been thrown into this new situation, and everybody has to learn to survive it on their own. By ripping off others, for example. In her role in the film Judit Pogány is an honest hotel-keeper, which means she is never going to get rich...
There are other alternatives. One is either struggling hopelessly under debts and the public burden, or is done away with by one's competitors...
True, very true, at the end of the film Feri Zimmer laughs at the honest as well. He who comes from the madhouse sees the world as a madhouse. This interpretation is supported also by the meta-communicative instruments of film. In the scenes outside the hotel, on the beach, as well as in the streets, the picture stands upright, but as soon as one enters the hotel, it tilts. There is a song at the beginning of the film, its text was written by Tibor Bornai: "We have been seated in a swing, pushed and left to ourselves.." This feeling of being in a swing is what the tilted picture is trying to make one feel. Then : the Mafiosi have been shot backwards, in play-back and I have employed a great number of stop-tricks. You see an empty room, and hear people talking, when all of a sudden; there they are, having a chat. There is no clapper, nothing is changed in the scene, only the characters. This is the first time I have used this trick, implying that the world is permanent, while we just happen to be here, and can be replaced.
Do you think you have managed to make one more comedy that is destined to become a box-office hit?
This one is harder than Dollybirds has been. This is a burlesque, of the Chaplin kind rather than anything else. It is absurd. If people will go to see it, it will be because of Dollybirds. This time a lot depends on the income, four hundred thousand people will need to see it, only then will I have my wages, that' what we have contracted for. This is entirely new in Hungarian film production. The film is distributed by MOKÉP, and they have put all their eggs in one basket.
And what next, after Zimmer Feri... ?
I do not wish to make another comedy for some time now. I long for something more serious... Thanks perhaps to Dollybirds those who would otherwise never come to see certain types of films will also come to the movie. I have one more, previously rejected screen-play, entitled Well-Preserved Corpses which I wrote as a comedy, but now I know it should not be a comedy...
Returning to the bullet, the Creator had one day to warn me of vulnerability, transitoriness, - and He did it.
Gábor Reviczky and
László Méhes and
Natália Nagy and
Gergő Kaszás and
Péter Tímár and