There was a time when I was trying to work out whether feature films
had some attribute that no other form of art was able to provide. Does
the moving picture give us something original, something that endows
it with a singular quality? Or is film only a mixture of other art forms,
making use of their values? Finally I realised that film does have one
singular quality that no other art form can supply. The moving picture
is capable of showing us a living human face in close-up: this ability
is the source of its special energy. Film is capable of showing the
birth of an emotion or a thought and its changing–mirrored in
the expression. One can only show the changing of the human face through
moving pictures: how love turns into jealousy, how a newly born thought
is mirrored in the eyes. Only the moving picture can show life’s
beautiful changes, the constant movements of the human expression in
the most intimate moment, in the moment of its birth.
A living face showing emotional changes and its connection with another
living face, and their connection with the environment, nature, society
and the world–this is film. Everything else can be described in
writing, can be painted, danced or sung–but the secrets of the
face shown in intimate close-ups can only be witnessed on the big or
small screen. And if this is indeed true, it means that the energy of
film is carried by the face appearing on the screen. And if this is
true in its turn, then it means that the history of the moving picture
is the history of living faces and expressions. And if we accept that,
we understand that the energy and strength of a feature film is supplied
by the face of the actor or actress and the face of his/her antagonist.
The actor playing the protagonist is someone the audience can identify
with, someone who embodies the secret desires and emotions of the audience,
someone who, through himself, makes a connection between the audience
and the writer’s and director’s concept. It’s the
actor’s or the actress’ charismatic power that attracts
the audience and gives credibility to the truth of the story.
This is why I believe that the fate of a film is decided by casting.
Who will represent the suffering and joy of the audience, his struggle
with himself and the world? Shall we see, shall we understand the emotions
of the protagonist in the moment of their birth and the way they keep
changing? Shall we see the glimmer in their eyes as a thought or a
feeling is born? Shall we see his or her face in close-up in the decisive
moments, so we can identify with him or her and understand what the
actor expresses? Because a close-up showing an emotion being born or
a thought changing in front of our eyes is as valuable as
In the film Being Julia, like in all our
previous films, the close-ups were the most important for us: we wanted
to concentrate on actors’ faces. In this story, where everybody
wants to live up to expectations, a certain type of behaviour, formalities–i.e.,
the characters are wearing “masks”–we were trying
to find a way to see behind those masks.
The tale is set amongst imagined masks and real-life mirrors. The masks
are there for eventual revelation,
the mirrors are there so we can face
ourselves. And this is a struggle.
The struggle takes place within us.
And the battlefield of this fight is
the face of the actor.
–Budapest, August 2004