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A conversation with…Béla Tarr

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“I don’t educate, I liberate”

To meet Béla Tarr is to touch the heart of filmmaking. In a Q&A session held as a side event of the Marrakech Festival, we had the chance to meet the director…and the man.

About his decision to quit directing

Il feel like a junky who doesn’t get his fix. Filmmaking is a kind of drug. Of course I miss it all the time. But a I’m a strong man and I can resist. [He smiles] The truth is I had to stop. I have been doing this stuff for almost thirty-four years and after each film I made, I had new questions. Each time I had to come up with new answers. Now I have the feeling I did my job. My work is finished. There is no reason why I should repeat myself. What I would do could only be a copy of a job I already made. When I see young people’s eyes shining while they see my past movies, I do not want them to laugh about any new work I could do. My movies are still screened and I think they are more and more fresh. This is the important thing. I don’t believe in nowadays trends. Some choose fast-food. I love a real home-made dinner.

Why is home-made satisfying?

Don’t ask me. I was the one cooking.

Did you quit because of a lack of money?

We need money, but making a film can be very cheap. In Sarajevo, where I used to teach, we did not have so much money. Sometimes, we were shooting with iPads. And it was ok. The lower the budget, the higher the energy.

The cinema he likes to watch

I am a simple human being. I need to be touched. And I am touched by everything that is true, by real human situations and feelings: drama, joy, desire, anger… all those nice things. I need to see that there is life. I don’t like it when things are too sophisticated, I like when they are fluent, floating, simple. When I do not feel the work behind it. What I used to say to my actors is: “don’t act, just be”. You can catch a lot of things in people’s eyes. And only then, you can be touched. Filmmaking is like hunting, you have to wait and wait until life happens. And if you put it in the box, it’s already a good film.

To teach…and to liberate

I like doing it and some students are doing a great job. In the 21st century, you can make a movie with an iPhone. There are really no rules. One should not pretend to educate people. We can only liberate them. This is my reward: to see that people are free, powerful and brave enough. Life is hard for a young filmmaker. I just want to teach my students not to think only about their homeland or their culture. Life is bigger than that. They come from Japan, South Korea, India, Argentina, Mexico and Europe…and they are working together. I invite other filmmakers, whom I consider as important, to testify about their experiences. It is a great chance for young filmmakers to discover other talents.

About being a trouble-maker

In Hungary, you have to fight. Where I grew up, I never had anything. If you wanted something, you had to look for it. Of course, sometimes it was difficult. I’ve always swum against the tide. And now I am glad to be in the top 5 of the most unwanted people in my country.