Though you must have told this story a thousand times (and I have already read an account of it in the excellent press release on WIND), could I ask you to retrace the various phases in the production of the film - beginning with the class with Yvette Biró in the winter of 1994?
Yes. Yvette travels with a Master Class in screenwriting. She goes to - I don't know how many countries she's been to with this. And what she does is, she makes the students write and that's great. Also she has this charismatic energy that comes out of her and she's really an amazing person. She creates an ideal situation for writing. One day, she came up with this photo by Lucien Hervé, "Les trois femmes," and in the picture you just see three women standing in the countryside, watching something outside the picture, and you don't know what they're watching, and you don't know what the situation is. But you understand that it's a countryside and that it's at least 30 years ago. And then I spent three hours on it and the whole idea [for the screenplay] just came: that I have to be very slow, that I have to use one camera movement, and I have to show something tragic happening in the midst of this peaceful situation with the three women. That's how I wrote the screenplay for the short. And she liked it a lot.
What happens is, she gives the assignment at 12 o'clock, and then at 3 o'clock we all come back, like ten people come back with different short stories which everybody reads and then we talk about it. And after I read it, she said right away: "You know, maybe Marcell you should do this film." Because these screenplays are not really for production, they're just exercises in writing. And I said "Yes, I would love to do it."
Then nearly half a year passed with nothing happening, with the paper just lying in my drawer, and then I met a television producer, György Durst, who was looking for shorts, and it occurred to me that Wind might be a possibility... It was like a miracle when I met him because he read it and he said right away: "Yeah, let's do it. It's very good material."
I was never sure about it. The whole thing was really subconscious all the time, to be honest. I was never sure what it would look like, I never knew it would be so full of energy when the camera when the camera really doesn't show anything but slowly reveals just a countryside. In 1995, we started production, and it was finished by February 1996.
Wind is a wonderful title. Does it have a metaphorical meaning for you?
It was a little bit as though the wind was moving the camera as well. When I first wrote the screenplay, the sentence kept coming back: "And the wind was blowing," "And the wind was blowing." "And they were just standing. And then we see this, and this and this, and the wind was blowing." So wind was the word I was using repeatedly on the page that I wrote, and I thought the best title would simply be Wind.
A lot of people didn't like the title. They said: "This is not strong enough. It doesn't say anything." But I kept it. And now I understand that it works well as a title because it's a very recognizable title. That's also very important. But I love the word and what it means: how the wind just blows everything away.
The hanging is the most striking event shown as the camera completes its 360 degree pan. Here there are victims, exectioners and bystanders. There is of course an air of timelessness about the film. But do you see this hanging scene as connecting with specific historical situations?
You know, some months ago I was in Sarajevo with the film, at the Sarajevo festival, and I met this high ranking officer who asked the same question. And I said: "What are you asking? You've just been to war. There are situations like that all the time."
The reason I chose costumes from before the Second World War was to avoid being too specific. Film is always so specific. What you see on the picture, that's what it is. I didn't was to make a documentary film, I wanted to make a fiction. So I tried to be as fictional as I could. But maybe at this very moment, as we are talking, people are getting hanged like that. No, I wasn't thinking of any specific political or historical situation... Also, I never witnessed such a thing in my life and that's why I was curious about it as well.
One of the things I find most distressing in your film is the passivity of the onlookers. Can you tell me anything about your thoughts on that passivity?
My story was about a group of men, about fifteen or twenty men, just riding around in the countryside, and because there's a huge mess everywhere, they can just do whatever they want. They can just take people's belongings whenever they want to, and if they arrive at a farm like this one, and if there are some men resisting them, the easiest and the fastest thing would be just to kill them that way. Because it looks like an execution, and it looks like something prescribed by the law, but of course it's a violation of the law. So this has been going on for maybe months now. And they've been seeing people dying before their very eyes and are just not sensitive to that any more. Just as when we watch television, CNN, every day, and we are not sensitive any more...
On my video copy of the film, I can barely make out some of the words of the song that is heard at the very end. Are those words part of the story you are telling?
Some of the words we hear are "Open your eyes my growing son." These are the only important words. It was as though this song just came from the air, from the wind, and I wanted to keep it that way... The whole soundtrack was great work. My friend, Peter Connelly who's from Texas and who was studying at NYU, recorded all the sound, and it was his wonderful idea to keep everything very low during the mixing. While we were mixing the sound, I wasn't sure how it would work if we kept it that low but when it was done, I understood that that was best for the film. He did a really great job.
A six minute take cannot be easy to make, considering all of the things that could go wrong. How many takes did you have to do, until you got the right one?
We did two or three rehearsals and then we did four takes. And it was the third one that we used. So we shot from about 9 a.m. to about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. It was a very short shoot.
Do you see the very circularity of the camera movement as a part of the story? Is it also a way of saying that the events you show are like a cycle that repeats itself, over and over again or am I taking things too literally
No, that could be an explanation. Or it could just be in the mind of someone who is looking around. One person is just standing there, and actually nothing is happening, other than three women watching something, but while he looks around, he thinks of [imagines] that.
I understand that Wind has now been included in fifty film festivals, which is quite remarkable. Why do you think the film has been so successful?
I haven't attended too many festivals and I haven't seen that many short films, but usually the short film that makes a strong impression - and for that matter, this applies to the feature film as well - the short that makes a strong impression is one that is simple enough to give time to the viewer. When you are watching a film by Antonioni, the main thing you feel is that you have time to think, just to be there, and the film is not pressing you to think about this now, and now here's a close-up of this, you have to think about this, and now this is a detail here, you have to see this. When it starts to be like that, the viewer gets tired of it. And doesn't want to think any more. So he gives it up. And when the film wants you to think later, then you won't think, and you say: "Well, why don't you just show it to me, just the way you did before?" So when there's time and space for a viewer just to be there, and be settled about the whole theme - just be able to look at everything the way a child looks at things for the first time. I think that's very important. All the great films we see, the classics, also the short films - the best of the films we see is always like that, always works inside like that.
Also, Wind is a very good length. Six minutes is a very good length for a short film, and it's also good that it has no dialogue. Everybody's always worried about the dialogue at festivals and so on.
And I'm sure something was happening on that day when we were shooting. Something was going on in the air, because you can see that on the picture. And that's not me, that's not the crew, that's not the d.p. [director of photography], that's the place and somehow God was watching or was pointing at something there.
Are there any short films that you have found especially inspiring?
Oh yeah. In the last few months, I saw two short films from the Lodz film school in Poland by two directors who were students of Kieslowski's. Those films were really amazing. One was called Pancha, which is the name for an old lady, and the other was called After Dusk. And in Sarajevo I saw a very nice French film about a homosexual who has AIDS, make by a young guy who is studying at the university. And also Yvette brings every now and then short films from the NYU. And also I have a very good friend in England who - when Wind won the Palme d'or in Cannes, she won the special jury prize. Her name is Lynn Ramsey and the film is called Small Deaths.
Do you have any advice for student filmmakers?
My biggest problem was film school. The main advice would be: don't go to film school just to be in film school, because you want to be a filmmaker and you think you will become a filmmaker through film school. I think film schools are only important for meeting people and for having the possibility of making films. The idea of shooting a film every year for film school as an exam, I didn't like at all. I don't like shooting a film just to shoot a film.
My other advice would be: never think about critics or about the way people will receive your film in the first place. Just try to think of the theme itself and what it makes you feel emotionally - try to be as emotional as you can.
13 October 1997