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KARLOVY VARY 2018 East of the West

László Csuja • Director

“Fortunately, none of the actors read the script”

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- KARLOVY VARY 2018: Cineuropa sat down with emerging Hungarian filmmaker László Csuja to talk about juggling with genres in his first feature-length fiction title, Blossom Valley

László Csuja  • Director

Emerging Hungarian filmmaker László Csuja has unveiled his first feature-length fiction film, Blossom Valley [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: László Csuja
film profile
]
, in Karlovy Vary’s East of the West competition. Csuja talked to Cineuropa about casting a Special Olympics roller skater and a model in the leading roles of his punk film, improvising on set and juggling with genres.

Cineuropa: You were previously working on a docu-fiction title, Nine Months War. How did Blossom Valley come about? What are the origins of the project, and why did you opt for a fictional narrative?
László Csuja:
 Nine Months War is a parallel project about a boy during the Ukrainian-Russian military conflict. The idea behind Blossom Valley is actually based on two concepts: one is a subconscious vision I had – a girl running with a baby in the suburbs. The other one is intellectual – mentally challenged people’s relationship with parenthood.

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For the leading roles, you cast a model and a three-time Special Olympics winner in roller skating – who does not roller skate at all in the film. How did this happen?
Correct – the male character of Laci does not roller skate, but Bianka does not act like a model in the film either. To tell you the truth, we improvised a scene in which they were actually roller skating and singing the European Anthem, but in the end, we cut it out. I was attracted by Laci’s purity and by Bianka’s freedom. Both have a strong and unique personality and inner world. I feel honoured to have been able to work with them.

Blossom Valley has some raw elements in terms of the storytelling. How much of the script was written and how much was improvised?
We re-wrote the script after I picked the actors for the two main characters. And then, yes, we improvised a lot. Fortunately, none of the actors read the script. The dialogues were constant improvisation – sometimes, a whole scene as well. We didn’t have too much time to think up scenes while shooting, but our DoP, Gergely Vass, and production designer, Anna Nyitrai, were flexible team members.

While parenthood is certainly one topic addressed by the story, there is also the theme of a gullible person being taken advantage of. Does the story relate to some kind of exploitation, since the female character acts impulsively and whimsically, whereas the male character gets sucked into those whims?
We were attracted to classic melodramas and noirs like Scarlet Street (1945) and Gun Crazy (1950), where you can see similar situations. But I don’t agree that our main male character is simply a gullible or exploited person. During their journey, he is able to experience what he has never experienced before – he can be an independent person, and he can make his own decisions. 

Blossom Valley is a very sentimental title for the film, in contrast with the actual story. Why did you create this disparity?
The film is about a search for happiness. When somebody fantasises about their future happiness, he or she fantasises about a place they will live in as well. It is basic human behaviour. The sentimental tone highlights the tension between reality and the imaginary.

You interweave several elements into the story – road movie, dark comedy, social drama, odd rom-com. Why did you craft the plot as a patchwork of genres?
We just enjoyed using the lovers-on-the-run and social drama elements. It’s great that you found more, like an odd rom-com… Wow! I like playing with genres. Sometimes the plot follows clichés, and at other times it does not. 

Blossom Valley was developed and produced as part of the Hungarian National Film Fund’s Incubator programme. How was your experience with the Incubator?
The Incubator is a great initiation for debuting film directors in Hungary. More young directors can shoot their first feature film than ever before. The low budget forced me to be more meticulous and to keep things simple because we didn’t have so many shooting days. The producers, András Muhi and Gábor Ferenczy, also helped me a great deal.

Can you tell us anything about your upcoming project with Anna Nemes?
We are developing a feature script about a female body builder entitled The Crown of Creation. We did a pitch at the Sofia Film Festival, and it garnered huge international interest. We won a prize there as well. We would like to shoot the movie next summer if the Hungarian National Film Fund ends up supporting the project.

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