An interview with Franciska Torocsik
“You can find everything about a person on the screen”, says Franciska Törőcsik.
Cupping her palm in his own, a sexagenarian declared, Aurora Borealis, which he had seen Franciska Töröcsik to feature in, to be the best film in the 23rd KIFF and it was only the second day of the festival! He was not the only one to either talk, take pictures or enquire about her ‘sister’, that they had seen in that movie. Franciska on her part was quick to oblige with her dolphin-smile and a pert flick of her auburn hair.
She had portrayed young Mária in this difficult film helmed by Márta Mészáros which talks about bitter remembrances and ugly truths. Set in the 1950s, it of course wraps in the harrowing Eastern Block atrocities as well.
Her first screen role was as an extra in Istvan Szabó’s,Relatives (2006), when she was 16 and then at 19 starred in Lili Horvath’s short-film, Sunstroke (2009). Subsequently, she has appeared in Just the wind (2012) by Benedek Fliegauf, Swing (2014) by Csaba Fazekas, Home Guards (2015) by Kriszta Goda, Don’t Breathe by Fede Álvarez and now in her most challenging role yet in a film by the most powerful women Hungarian director.
We caught up with her to know more.
How did the casting come about?
Hungary is a small country – we all know each other. Mostly the director requests to select few actors like in this case. I got in touch with a casting director and actually a funny thing happened. She sent me 4-5 scenes, but somehow I didn’t receive the actual audition scene. But I somehow managed it
TRIP TO KOLKATA Life is always interesting and yeah, it’s great- especially this trip to Kolkata. Many people had said I’ll feel a sense of rejuvenation here. It’s good to see that people are patient and tolerant here. Life is different – like there are a lot of social problems but people here are relaxed about their fate.
and Márta said instantly on the floor, that she wanted me in.
What got you interested in acting in the first place?
I always wondered about performing and acting since I was like 7. Don’t know exactly how or why I just felt it. In my adolescence I went to Margit Földessy’s acting school where I experienced the joy of acting. But till about 18, it was only a hobby. After high-school Margit advised me to apply to Budapest University of Film and Theater. They accept only 10-16 students out of possible 800-1200 applicants. Somehow I managed to be part of the class.
And now you are here in a Márta Mészáros movie ....
Life is always interesting and yeah, it’s greatespecially this trip to Kolkata. Many people had said I’ll feel a sense of rejuvenation here. It’s good to see that people are patient and tolerant here. Life is different – like there are a lot of social problems but people here are relaxed about their fate.
By the way do you have a family history in acting?
Half of my family works in healthcare, the other half are architects and two painters on both sides. My mother wanted to be a singer but went to become a psychiatrist. My father never wanted to be an artist. He's a research scientist and he's working at a medicine company. They were surprised and thrilled that I got into University of Theatre and Film Arts (Formerly Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest). By the way I have a younger sister, Hanna, who’s a musician.
Weren’t you a little afraid to work with Márta?
I had many fears but it wasn’t hard for me. I was excited. I have worked with some big directors. It always makes me ambitious. Sometimes I feel I am more confident in difficult situations. The subject was also very challenging – a big chance for an actor to show one’s capabilities. That brought out the force, the power from inside in me. This character needed a lot of depth. I did a lot of research to understand the mindset of a young woman during the 1950s in a communal regime.
Was Márta strict as a director?
Principally, she gave me total freedom. She is very curious what an actor can do. In some cases of course she was very exact – like in the scene where Maria is rapped by the Soviet soldiers – she told me I have to be in a catatonic state. As an actor, it helped me a lot. When you lose your loved ones, your future, and your life – your heart dies. You don’t feel the pain of rape. So catatonic was the best portrayal- there was no shouting, no moving away and no resistance. So,yes, she was sometimes strict, other times somehow, she set me be.
All went as per the script or .....
We had 5-6 workshops before the film and 1-2 times with other actors from Poland and Austria. Márta had written the script with Mari Törőcsik in mind.
I was probably the second secured cast. Then they got all the other actors. She gave us the whole script and there were some improvisations say about 20% – but the lines were so good, they had power - the script-writer was good – there was no need for any major changes, just some changes in the storyline.
How was the first day of shoot?
Very hard! (Laughs). My first scene was from the middle of the story. So I was finding it difficult to connect emotionally. I did try to think about the past incidents in my role but I felt something was missing. Once I managed that it gradually became easier.
Talking in general, can one make a living only by acting in Hungary?
Many actors in Budapest earn just the basic salary level – not as much as they deserve in my opinion. Sometimes it’s hard to be an actor in Hungary – you have to make a living by doing many allied things like dubbing and such. In the west actors get 20 times more. In neighbouring Austria, actors make four to six times more. But our film industry is growing and with so many good films coming out from the country, maybe the actors and the people who work on the movie will earn more...
So is the problem being addressed?
Hungary is a difficult country in some cases. There’s no actors’ guild, no protective organization. Film associations and guilds of other countries might be great examples to emulate. We have very talented actors. But there are cheaper substitute always available and they are exploited. Sadly, in some cases the quality is not the most important here. But then I don’t want to complain, because my country is always a great inspiration for me!
Is that a unique problem for Hungary or usual for central Europe?
Hungarian is a lonely language. The ancient Hungarians came from eastern side of the Ural Mountains and settled down in the Carpathian basin. They mingled with the Slavic neighbours. In the 15th century, the country was under Turkish rule for 150 years, subsequently invaded by Austrians, Germans and Russians. Its language (indigenously known as Magyr Nyelv) is very interesting. It is FinnoUgric language – very mysterious. Our language is not comparable with any others – we have no brother or sister language. Márta had once said Hungary is a lone country.
It has become all the more difficult for actors because of all English films - and those of other language as well, are dubbed in Hungarian.
There are less fluent
English speakers here, than say in Denmark or Sweden, where English is like the second language.
You seem to have a thing about languages ...... I have that too ....
Yeah. You know I also know Japanese. In fact I went to a Japanese language school in Shizuoka to learn there and I have lived two months in Osaka as well. In Hungary after the certificate exam at the end of high-school a student has to choose which university they want to go to. So after I finished my
ACTORS IN BUDAPEST Many actors in Budapest earn just the basic salary level – not as much as they deserve in my opinion. Sometimes it’s hard to be an actor in Hungary – you have to make a living by doing many allied things like dubbing and such. In the west actors get 20 times more. In neighbouring Austria, actors make four to six times more.
Franciska Töröcsik in a theatre scene.
Franciska Töröcsik in Aurora Borealis.