British directors Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel are shooting a film in Hungary based on György Dragomán’s novel "The White King," published in 28 languages.
The directors, a married couple, arrived in Budapest in April to prepare ground for the shooting of their joint directorial debut. As they told the Hungarian news agency MTI, they read Dragomán’s novel three years ago, and knew immediately that this was a film they definitely wanted to make. It became part of their life, not only their work, Tittel said.
The decision to shoot the film, produced by the British company Oiffy (together with Yellow Knife and Chimney Group), in Hungary was influenced by the advantageous financial environment, the beautiful landscape, and the fact that they found an excellent Hungarian partner, the independent film and theatre production company Proton Cinema.
The film will shoot for seven weeks entirely on location, including a former air force base and along the banks of the Danube.
The White King shows an oppressive regime from the perspective of Djata, a precocious 12-year-old. When he finds out that his father has been imprisoned by the authorities and he and his mother are labeled traitors, Djata vows he will not rest until he sees his father again.
The cast includes Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Game of Thrones), Greta Scacchi (The Player) and Fiona Shaw (The Tree of Life). Agyness Deyn (Electricity, Hail Caesar!) will play the boy’s mother who must navigate a world of propaganda, abuse and gangs in order to reunite her family.
The script was written by Alex Helfrecht who told MTI that the novel makes the reader feel the atmosphere of a dictatorship simply by showing the life and the experiences of people. Rather than portraying Ceausescu’s Romania, the directors will show an imagined country that is reminiscent of the world of Clockwork Orange. The directors feel that the novel portrays dictatorship in a universal way; it could take place anywhere, and at any time. Reading the novel, one does not know where the borders are, yet one feels locked in. The people never get to see how the machinery works, they never see the leaders or the dictator himself. It is this oppressive atmosphere that the directors would like to portray in the film.
As in the novel, the viewer will see the events from Djata’s perspective. The directors had creative dialogues with the writer, and received a lot of assistance from him, without him interfering in any way. They were basically faithful to the spirit of the book, Alex Helfrecht said, with her husband adding that they hope Dragomán will be proud of the film as this is very important for them.
As opposed to the novel, several characters, including the father and the mother, have names in the film. All Dragomán insisted on was keeping Djata’s name which was actually the writer’s nickname in his childhood in Romania.
The book is very visual, Tittel said, and they have been working for three years on it in order to meet viewers’ expectations and not to disappoint anybody.
The music is composed by Joanna Bruzdowicz (Vagabond, Les Âmes grises), Jörg Tittel’s mother, and the cameraman is René Richter.
Tags: György Dragomán