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The Door, the movie based on Magda Szabó’s famous novel comes out this week in Hungary directed by Academy Award Winning director István Szabó (no relation, it’s a very common name in Hungary). Recently I was lucky enough to attend a public talk with István Szabó about the movie, the cast, the novel and some background stories.

We learned that it wasn’t the director’s idea to make this movie, he was asked to do it. The Door is one of the late Magda Szabó’s most well-known pieces of work translated into 38 languages. It is also one of her autobiographical works, tells a story of her own. We heard about the challenges of making a movie of such a famous story that everybody pictures in their own minds in different ways. While those who knew Magda Szabó can clearly picture her character – and Martina Gedeck is very good playing it, the other leading role, Emerenc is such a powerful character that I couldn’t imagine it being played by anyone until I saw the play adaptation in a Budapest theater with a remarkable cast. As it is with any novels adapted to film, people already have a picture in their minds about the characters and that makes the actors’ job really hard. According to István Szabó Helen Mirren’s job for instance is not to convince me that she is Emerenc instead of who I pictured Emerenc to be, but to convince me that she can be Emerenc too besides who I pictured her to be. I have to say, I thought Helen Mirren was an interesting choice, but only until I first saw the trailer and found how perfect she was.

And that leads to talk about how Helen Mirren took the role. István Szabó said half jokingly that Magda Szabó herself writes that Emerenc is queen. So he needed a queen for the role. He said he couldn’t explain, it was just an immediate idea, she was the one who popped into his head without even having to think about who would be playing this character. When Helen Mirren first read the script she liked it, just wasn’t sure how she could shape this role, so she wanted to think about it. Then Mr. Szabó gave her the book, which she read in a few days and immediately called the director to tell him this role was hers. When he asked why, she said she felt this story was a perfect way to commemorate the generation of her parents.

The movie was shoot on location in Budapest last fall, not far away from the place where Magda Szabó spent those years she wrote the novel about. The actual building and the actual door can be found in Budapest, it’s not even hard to investigate the address where Magda Szabó had lived. István Szabó says he had been walking the streets in that neighborhood, and although he could have shoot at the actual location if he wanted to, he decided that another one three blocks away was better. It was interesting how he said that in film sometimes other than reality represents the truth more (it’s so beautiful, I have to quote it in Hungarian: “keresek valamit, ami közelebb van az igazsághoz, mint a valóság”).

The movie comes out in Hungary on 8th March, here’s the Hungarian trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHfyv2an1B4

I’m not sure about the international dates, I guess it will be on the Cannes 2012 programme, and might be premiering overseas only after that. Here’s the international trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fU5fgaWhfqQ

And this definitely must be a book recommendation too, especially since many of you will have to wait so long for the movie. I have heard years ago that Sophie Marceau was a big fan of Magda Szabó and how she loved this particular book, and I just read recently that when the Dutch royal couple – it was a long time ago, Queen Beatrix’s husband was still alive, when they came to Hungary they asked the chief of protocol to let them privately visit the place where Emerenc lived, because The Door was their favorite novel. 

You can easily find many great reviews of the book all over the internet, so I don’t link any of them, just one from Tumblr, I have actually reblogged it already a while ago, it’s from booklover, check it out here: http://booklover.tumblr.com/post/5960548225/let-me-be-i-dont-like-it-when-you-lecture-me

And read the book, and watch the movie, and when you’re done with either, let me know what you thought! 🙂

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