From Nihilism to Transcendence
Discussing the Cinema of Benedek Fliegauf
A conversation between Benedek Fliegauf and Marcus Stiglegger
Benedek, what social background do you come from?
I come from kind of classic dysfunctional middle class family. I was a real wild kid as I remember. I was a typical boy, with bruises on my knees, and sweat on my neck. Nowadays we usually use this 'hyperactive' term, back then they preferred to use words like: nasty, egoistic, hysterical and so on.
Which experiences are the basic for your reflections in later films? Is there a certain influence?
Experiences? I was flowing in the time, with fear, and marvelling as every human being who is a newcomer in this planet. Nothing really special.
Your way to become a filmmaker was a very stony one. Could you please tell us something about your initial ambitions, your decision to make films finally - and how it actually worked out ?
I wanted to be a writer, but the folks didnt really read the books in those times. It was in the early 1990-s, when the smart eggs spoke about the end of the Gutenberg-galaxy constently. Plus I was too jumpy to sit in one place for hours. I had real financing problems, too. The only chance to stay next to the 'culture', was work for the televison as an assistant. Beyond this practical bullshit I loved the hypnotic effect of the cinema as a medium.
As literature is a strong influence for your cinematic work: Do you see certain dialectic between written words and images?
Words and images….This is a mystery. I dont like to analize, because after that we look around and only labels, reductions are what we get. I would say the multi-level creating is the most magnetic part of the filmmaking to me. A 'Gesamkunstwerk' is just like making love. I I do it with pleasure, but hate to speak about that.
How do you work with your mainly amateur actors? Do you choose them for what they shall represent or do you practise the scenes before?
I try to synchronize the script with their personalitys. We practice a lot. I don't like suprises on the set. I mean no matter what you do the suprise will be there anyway. Mostly negative, rarely positive suprises. If I can work my way, the shooting is just an other boring rehearsal to them. Not to me, but them. I always work hard to keep calm down them.
Some of your films touch taboo-subjects like incest, drug addiction and suicide. Are these actually the topics you are interested in or do you see them as metaphors for something on a meta-level?
Drugs and sucide got same root in my eyes. The root is: how could we escape from this greedy, egoistic, and hoplessly fucked up society that we built for ourselves. Beyond the conformism, ethnocentrism, powerplaying and all the other dead ends, there is the forgotten dignity of the Universe. My junky heroes are the tragic victims of the clumsy escape from this wicked world. Drugs and suicide are consequences, not reasons in my eyes.
There seems to be a certain melancholia in Eastern European films judged by the examples actually appearing in the west (Tarr, Kieslowski, Tarkowski etc.). DEALER seems to be one of the darkest and most melancholic films to emerge ever. Do you see yourself in a specific tradition?
DEALER was the final exit to me from this Eastern Europian paradigm. Not just the Dealer lying in the solar coffin – the tanning facility. Symbolically, me too. It was hardcore. I did not realized what I really did then. My spiritual purification never would have happened without my film DEALER. It almost killed me, but finally gave to me the…What? The next level? Salvation? Awakening? I don’t know, but I’am a totally different person than I was before.
Do you know the Bresson-inspired German film DEALER by Thomas Arslan? It is actually on the same DVD-label over here.
Really? No. Is it a good one? I will watch that!
It is very reduced and cold, but fascinating. - You mentioned the phrase 'ambient' in connection with your new film MILKY WAY. Could you define this a bit in the context of cinema?
I said that because I did not find a better world. Now I think that MILKY WAY is a Zen film. It’s ten haiku. Who knows what I gonna say tomorrow? I like ambient music like Thomas Köner’s stuffs, and I think the way how you listen those „music” is a same how you can watch MILKY WAY as an „ambient film”. I use these marks because I think as Thomas Köner music is less then music, and more then music, in the same time, MILKY WAY is less then a film, and more then film in the same time.
Music and sound is absolutely important in your films, even in some of the early shorts. What are your influences and how much of your own ideas are present here?
I would say to me the cinema is a proportional mix of sound and images. There is none without the other. The music helps me a lot. There are tons of impressions. I am omnivorous. Amon Amarth, The Necks, The Cure, Deadbeat, Behnam Manahedji and hundreds of other music artists are swrilling in my head constantly. I love it. Never enough.
You founded an artist collective called 'Raptor's Kollektiva'. Who is behind that name? Does the phrase Raptor refer to the predatory nature of humanity? And please tell us something about the symbol, which is a certain chemical formula...
I found it. The name came from…I forgat it, sorry. The symbol is the chemical formula of 5MeODMT. This entheogen is one of the most powerful and effective way how a human being can see the real nature of the things. That is the reason why I choosed that symbol.
What are your future plans?
I’am working ont he project which called WOMB. This film going to be my first english language movie. It will be a german-french-hungarian coproduction as I see. WOMB is a dark love story in the near future. We going to start to shoot in begining of next spring on Sylt.
And to come to an end: From TALKING HEADS onwards most of your films have a very existentialist attitude. Do you think, cinema is a suitable medium to express philosophic reflections?
I hope so.
Thanks a lot.
(November 5th, 2008)