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In competition: "Delta" by Kornél Mundruczó

The film:

Although this is Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó's first selection in Competition, it is the third time he has participated in the Festival de Cannes. The Cinéfondation showcased Kis Apokrif n°2 in 2004, and Johanna was a 2005 Un Certain Regard choice. Delta is the story of the return of a taciturn young man to the countrified delta region which is his family's home. There, he finds and falls in love with a sister he never knew he had. However, their relationship is rejected as "unnatural" by the locals.

The director chose the wild and isolated Danube delta region as the setting for a story which touches upon the theme of incest, a universal taboo: "Love between siblings is primal and irresistible in its essence – though it may be against nature – as it represents the possibility of unity with self. We yearn for it, yet we shudder at the thought of it. It is not only indisputably deep and real, it is also impossible and without any prospects for the future. I tried to understand the kind of freedom that could allow you to transcend the norm, rather than talk about sexual deviance. It is not the incest that is at the heart of the story, but the courage it takes to accept a natural attraction, even if it breaks with conventions. It’s about the freedom to do what you feel is right and the extent to which it is passionately hated. There are people who believe they have the right to persecute those who do not fit the norm; it is their total lack of tolerance that is unacceptable."


Press conference:

For the in-Competition presentation of their feature Delta, Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó, scriptwriter Yvette Biró, and producer Viktória Petrányi, along with actors Orsi Tóth and Félix Lajkó, fielded questions from the journalists. Highlights follow:

Kornél Mundruczó on the importance of the landscape in the film: "In fact, it was the landscape, above all, which inspired me in making this film... First of all, the physical side, the material side, and secondly, the symbolic aspect. I wouldn't talk about stylization. It's not something like a desert or a mountain landscape... This is perhaps the element that is shared by all my three films: I look at a very limited microcosm, in fact, a very small world; here, I focus on a family problem. I always have to find the right place, the right location, in which I can create this microcosm, this mini-universe."

Kornél Mundruczó on why the characters have no names: "In one version of the screenplay, there were names for the characters, but I didn't have to fix them; we didn't actually use the names in the film."

Kornél Mundruczó on the paucity of dialogue: "In Johanna, this is almost a silent film, too. It's in fact very similar to an opera... What was important was first of all the landscape, and all the elements it contains, and then, of course, there's the dialogue. It's not so much the dialogue that gives you information. Everything should be expressed by the images... In fact, my cinematographer and I created the language of the film, the style of the film... based on very short pan movements, very short traveling movements of the camera, and then the lighting is mostly natural lighting – normal sunlight."

The actors, on their work on the film:
Orsi Tóth:
"Kornél didn't ask me to play a part. He asked me to be "present" in this film. It doesn't make very much difference whether I speak or not."
Félix Lajkó:
"It was the first time I had the lead role in a film. The starting point was precisely the fact that I'm somebody who doesn't speak very much. Kornél has decided that the part evolved in that direction because of my characteristics."

Kornél Mundruczó on cuts he made in the film:
"I come from a theatrical background, and I'm convinced that it's in fact the audience which determines whether the film works or not. The film was screened in Hungary in February and since then, we've cut five to ten minutes out of it, because I felt during those first screenings that there was a certain ambiguity in the film. We needed to remove that to ensure that the film would work properly, and this is what led to the final version. We did quite a lot of work on the sound track. We probably changed about 60% of the sound track. We did a lot of work, for about two months, in the studios before reaching this final version."

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