by FilmInk Staff

Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time is the superb second feature from Hungarian filmmaker Lili Horvát (The Wednesday Child, 2015).

Anchored by a sublime performance from Natasa Stork, who makes her debut as a lead in the film, it is a noirish tale set in Budapest.

The plot concerns Marta (Stork), a ‘rational’ doctor in pursuit of an ‘irrational’ romantic figure – a man whom Marta believes she met, fell in love with, but now no longer ‘knows her’…

Preparations… uses the classic tropes of the mystery thriller: mistaken identity, an unreliable narrator, and a style that merges the dream-life of the obsessive main character with a lived reality that stirs them toward a darker, but richer truth.

Still only in her thirties, Stork is a graduate of Budapest’s University of Theatre and Film, and a veteran of the National Theatre in Hungary. Recently recognised as a rising star in European cinema – she appeared in Cannes Un Certain Regard prize winner White God (Kornél Mundruczó, 2014) – Stork’s performance in Preparations has already scored a number of best actor nods at international film festivals over the last year. Soon, she will appear as ‘twins’ in Ice Cream Can be Dangerous.

Charming and funny, Stork told FilmInk that she is a long way from the brooding and sometimes brittle Marta.

How did you get involved in acting?

“My father was a production designer. I wanted to go and see him on sets, but I didn’t do it very much because he didn’t want me there while he was working; he was very strict about that [laughs].

“When I was very young, I was called in for casting on something and my parents would not let me! I think I was about eight years old. I cried so much. I thought ‘all right, I’m going to punish them, I’m going to be an actress’. [Laughs]”

What drew you to acting?

“I was always wondering why I loved actors so much. Why are they so charming? I think the rewards are… I love working. And I love preparing for roles, I enjoy the creativity and the research. For example, on Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time I had the chance to follow doctors…

“Before we started shooting, Lili Horvát, the writer and director and I, we had a sort of casting process which was also a rehearsal process [which took about six months]. Lili asked me to go to a special hospital for neurosurgery. For at least two or three months, I went every week. She said she wanted me to do it until I no longer felt like a tourist. [Laughs].

“The first day I thought it was crazy, I thought ‘I am an alien here’ but after a while…I had to get used to myself as a doctor. We watched some surgery. Once I almost fainted…I wouldn’t say I don’t like the sight of blood, but early morning at 6am and there are smells in there…”

Some actors work from the inside out. They find the character by analysing psychology and emotion. Others work from the externals, creating something out of details in costume, and voice, hair and makeup…Marta has a very distinctive walk, like a swagger.

“[Laughs] That was an issue. At university, I took dance classes, so at first Lili said that I was walking too softly. She thought that was a problem. We experimented [till we got that walk right].

“I mainly work from the inside out I think, but I don’t believe in any technique. I believe all characters need different approaches. For each character, you collect attributes. I think about myself as a playful actor – I’m not the kind who goes into a corner alone. I mix with the crew. When I can be present, and react with my surroundings, I can react well in front of the camera. You know what? I feel I can cry and be emotional when I’m happy. When I’m really sad I cannot. [Laughs].

“One of the biggest challenges was playing opposite Viktor Bodó who is János [the man Marta pursues in the story]. He is an incredible actor, a wonderful guy, and a director in theatre, and the funny thing is, he was my professor at university [where I studied acting]. Playing such a role [his lover] with my ex-teacher! [Laughs]”

In cold print Marta might seem, perhaps strange, perhaps a little unhinged…what was your first impression?

“No, I didn’t feel her crazy at all. Love is craziness in a way. I understood her in every moment. That’s the only way you can approach a character. I think you have to find it very natural and normal, no matter what it is that a character does. If you read a script and don’t feel it, you have to read it again and again… you have to reach a point where you feel that this is normal. As in, this is how she thinks.

“One of the biggest issues for me was that Marta doesn’t have many changes. So, I searched for ways to be different [scene to scene.]

“But I think the film talks about love in a very special and unique way and I hope that it encourages everyone to be brave enough to love…”

Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time is screening in Melbourne’s Cinema Nova and Sun Theatre Yarraville from February 24, and at Dendy Newtown, Canberra and Coorparoo (Brisbane) from March 17, 2022


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