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About movies, life lessons, self-identity and why he hasn’t bought a suit - The guest of the month is András Horváth

24/06/2021 - 16:00 to 26/07/2021 - 16:00

It’s no secret that you’re a big fan of Finnish movies. What else do you think is interesting about Finland and Finnish culture?

I will start from a little further because I basically fell in love with Estonian films first and from there I encountered Finnish culture, but it was the Estonians who drew me into this world.

To start with, the geographical location of the country is interesting already. I think they have a much more livable climate, they have a real spring, which we do not have, for example.

There is a lot of water and in this context, I imagine quite stereotypically that every Finn has a small waterfront cottage with a sauna next to it, where they can splash in the ice-cold lake. Of course, the sauna culture is something everyone knows about.

Finns seem terribly tolerant and accepting from the outside. Obviously, there are problems there too, but they’re trying to solve this in a politically correct manner, and the higher you go on a societal level, the more it shows.

You couldn’t imagine a prime minister like ours. I think there’s a loud minority in Finland too, but part of the tolerance aspect is that these people can also make their voices heard.

In connection to that, what makes the Finns strange to me, is that they are a little too withdrawn. I wouldn’t call them shy, but you lived in Finland for a long time, what do you think about that?


I think it’s more about the private sphere that isn’t so easily shared with anyone. Compared to Hungarians, work and private life are very strongly separated from each other.

I actually have a hard time imagining real intimacy. It may sound stupid, a relationship might be completely different compared to the ones we have. It must also be a matter of temperament.


Have you ever been to Finland?

No, unfortunately, but it would be great and it’s something on my list. It would have been possible in my current job, but unfortunately the epidemic intervened. I hope we can arrange it next year.


How did you get into the world of culture?

It was the classic ladder I climbed. Somehow we found each other with Toldi Cinema, which was not such a successful cinema at the time, even though it had a very long history already. I got involved there, first as a guest, then I started working there. Not once in my life would I have thought I was going to work in a movie theater, it came spontaneously.


For many years, you successfully managed one of the most famous cinemas in Budapest, the Toldi Cinema. What lessons have you learned from those times?

Since no one taught me how to do it, but because I knew the history of cinema, I was able to give a sense of continuity to things while also trying to organize an audience. I wanted to run the cinema and find its place in the art cinema scene. It wasn’t a conscious process, it was rather intuitive. I have a female side of my being trying to rely on intuitions, which most of the time seemed to work well.

There were a lot of lessons from that period that I will certainly be able to benefit from at another stage in my life. Not in the sense of what should have been done differently, I’m not a person who ruminates on that.

The much-mentioned tolerance has always been there, but I wasn’t a good leader, so to speak, I was a very shitty leader. I put the cinema on top of everything, that was the most important thing for me. Back then, I didn’t care much that my colleagues had a life also outside the cinema because I had no other life. It felt like my home and I sacrificed everything for it.

This is a huge lesson, for example, that things can be done differently. The other one is that working relationships there were not simply working relationships, but a lot of actual friendships developed from them in the meantime. It wasn’t an artificial thing, it happened naturally. Many of those relationships I built back then have survived to this day.


As an art cinema, is it possible to “sell out”? What are the values ​​that such cinemas must represent in order to remain true to themselves?

Authenticity is very important in my opinion, not just at art cinemas, but everywhere else too. You have to believe in what you do and you have to want it to succeed, without that, things will never work. I don't think you need to sell out. If you’re doing something you love and truly care about, and what’s going on there is good, you don’t need any advertising for it. Because after a while, others will love it too. I wouldn’t put suggestions to anyone’s head, I also learned that it can make matters much worse.

So is authenticity not just a catchphrase, but something that actually works, even when it comes to business?

I think yes. Just to set a political example, our dear Prime Minister is also one that keeps boasting and preaching how well we have solved everything while we know that things actually suck. He spends so much on propaganda while half the money would be enough to solve the real issues. He wouldn’t even have to do the campaign, he would just win the elections as everything works fine in the country.

Money should not be spent on advertising, but to solve actual problems. A cinema works the same way. If you can give people a program they love, something that is truly unique to them and you do it from your heart, then I don’t think it can go wrong anymore. After all, the cinema still works today, the structure of the shows is pretty much the same, except, of course, last year because of the epidemic.

I think I’ve put it on a good path because it’s on the same track we started it on. Obviously, I had partners and helpers in this, but I pulled in all the festivals, events, events and creative groups to work with organically.


What do you think are the most important elements of a good movie? What makes a movie good?

I have to believe what's going on. Unfortunately, a lot of actors got into boxes they can’t get out of. What worked 20 years ago no longer works anymore, that a movie can be sold based on who directed it or who is featured in it. These times are over, it is no longer possible to trick viewers so easily. The illusion must be perfect.

Surprisingly, this works very well for animated films, because there you can let go of the notion of what you’re seeing is reality, because from the very beginning, you watch the film knowing that it’s not reality. That way, many things can happen that couldn’t be possible in a plain feature film.

Good movies are never forgotten by the next day, good movies are the ones you think about even weeks later.


Which movies were the most inspiring or memorable for you, and why?

In animated films, Miyazaki is still my biggest love, any of his films. What’s really great about this old director is that he understands souls so well, especially the ones of kids. If you can enjoy a Miyazaki movie, you can be sure that your inner child is still there. I also really like Wes Anderson movies.

On the flipside, I had to watch an awful lot of movies every day and there were times when it felt like a burden. If you look at what journalists write after the festivals, you shouldn’t believe half of it. It depends so much on the order they saw the films on that day.


What can today’s filmmaker expect from the audience, and what can the audience expect from the filmmakers?

I’m not a filmmaker, so I can’t see what’s in their heads. But if they adopt a similar attitude and want to create believable illusions for people - whether it’s drama or comedy - the most important thing is that the story itself has to be good. In an all-night drama for example, something irreversible usually happens between the tenth and twentieth minutes, which is a recipe in itself. If it’s wrapped up so that even the characters are believable, I think it’s a win.


Do you think the audience has changed in the last 20 years?

A lot has changed just during the last year and a half. On-demand providers like Netflix and HBOgo have earned tremendously during this period. They basically bought everyone. I honestly don’t even know what will happen to the physical cinema.

I don’t want to complain, but I don’t think people have the desire to go to the movies anymore. How much has our stimulus threshold been pushed out? What is such a movie that makes someone go to the cinema? What needs to happen in the film? Especially lately we have only been able to watch movies online. I don’t know what small independent filmmakers and distributors should do to get people back into the cinema. I'm rather skeptical.


I think every art cinema has its own core audience who will eventually come back.  

Looking at the art cinema scene, I think Cirko and Toldi are the ones with a young audience. All the others have an aging audience. Fortunately, Toldi managed to renew its audience during the years, with a very simple idea. They need to be involved, to show them that they are also creators. Check out the Fresh Meat Film Festival, for example. The whole program is made from the works of young short filmmakers and their audience already fills the seats.


So is a culture of participation the answer?

Yes, but let’s look at this from another perspective. In big cinemas, blockbusters are very typical. The point is to cross the ever-higher stimulus threshold. It’s certainly one way of doing it, but it can’t be done indefinitely. Then who knows, there might come a damn good minimalist superhero movie. But then again, that would also change the audience.


Have you worked in different creative fields, in different roles, what are you currently working on?

I work for a Finnish tech company, which has nothing to do with culture, but what I can capitalize on the things I have learned elsewhere, combined with my intuitive nature. I haven’t changed, I haven’t become corporate, I haven’t become a suit. Actually, I still don’t have a suit, I hope I won’t ever need one. Blood does not become water. I always tried to stay true to myself.


Do you have a personal passion project that you are currently working on?

I want to brew the world’s most perfect lager beer, but unfortunately it’s not easy.

There is a lot to think about, suppliers, raw materials, technology, financial investments and the list goes on.


What is your opinion about the current cultural scene in Hungary? How has it changed during the last 15 years?

It has clearly changed in the wrong direction, but we all know about that. Since our favorite prime minister has been acting also as a cultural warrior, the situation has been getting even worse. They try to engulf everything, universities, artists, everything. Thank god there is a very long list of people who could never be bought. I don’t know what the end of this will be, privately published books, underground movements, zines?


Do you think this is reversible?

Many years are obviously lost, but there can be a change. I’m asking what kind of damage is this causing? The trouble is that he managed to dig such a deep gap between the two sides that by now, if I found out he was a right-wing writer, artist, or actor, I wouldn’t even care what he was doing anymore. I feel that spirit, humor and a lot of essential factors are missing from that side. It will thus be like cooking soup without water.

It’s also a good question how much actors and artists need to politicize. Unlike Orbán is saying, no one is persecuting Christian conservative culture in Hungary. No one. This is a lie.


Is there a cultural project or initiative at home that you currently find interesting and forward-looking?

I’ve been out of the cultural mainstream for some time. I see that all such initiatives are now being suffocated in their infancy. Ask me that question again next year after the elections are over.

What I really like are the grass-roots initiatives coming from below. If you want to consume some content, you pay for it yourself and the artist gets it directly. This way, the content remains absolutely independent and there is a demand for it. The only question is how long can this continue to work that way. For example, you and I work in places where we are free to express our opinions on anything. But take that away and we’ll be in very big trouble.


What could Hungary learn from Finland?

What we lack, but the Finns have, is morality and ethics. Although these values ​​are so strongly voiced by the government in Hungary, this doesn’t materialize at the level of action. The Finns, on the other hand, live ethically. Of course, this is a generalization, surely there are corrupt people there, as everywhere. However, this is then revealed and they are being held accountable for their action. They haven’t forgotten that these people are in fact public servants, so the principle of accountability also applies.

It is also important to let each other live. At home, we love intrigue and blaming others instead of applying self-reflection and taking personal responsibility. The ability to do this should be taught at schools already. We should start adopting a different way of thinking in Hungary, learning from the examples of more advanced democracies.

Anna Tilly