An in­ter­view with Fran­ciska Toroc­sik

“You can find ev­ery­thing about a per­son on the screen”, says Fran­ciska Törőc­sik.

Alive - - Content - By Sudipto Mul­lick

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.

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