10 February 2017

The Objective and the Emotional – The production duo behind 'On Body and Soul'

Inforg-M&M Film produced the last Hungarian feature that was in competition at the Berlinale – 'Just the Wind', in 2012 – and now they’re back with 'On Body and Soul', Ildikó Enyedi’s new feature. We talked to the two leading producers behind the operation, András Muhi and Mónika Mécs.

Before there was Inforg-M&M Film there was Inforg Studio, András Muhi’s production company established in 1999 and which produced features, shorts, documentaries and animation, as well as experimental films. The company expanded very quickly, and quite early on Inforg Studio and M&M Film – the production company owned by Mónika Mécs and her husband Ernő Mesterházy – started working on co-productions. Their first project together was 'Madárszabadító, felhő, szél' by István Szaladják in 2006, followed by 'Milky Way' (2007), the experimental feature by acclaimed director Bence Fliegauf, then 'Panic' (2008), the first feature by popular Hungarian television personality Attila Till, and finally Fliegauf’s sci-fi thriller, 'Womb' (2010).

As the above list already suggests, Inforg Studio helped to launch the career of several young filmmakers, among them László Nemes, whose first short, 'With a Little Patience', was produced by the company. They were also behind 'Before Dawn', the successful short by Bálint Kenyeres, which debuted in the short film competition at Cannes and went on to win the European Film Award. And of course the intertwining international career of Muhi and Fliegauf, which started with 'Forest' and 'Dealer', both in the Forum section of the Berlinale in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

When the previous film-financing system collapsed in 2010, Inforg Studio more or less went down with it. However, it soon returned in the form of Inforg-M&M Film, formalising the partnership between the two companies that had already been in place for years. Mécs and Muhi think of themselves as "the same kind of producer, meaning that more often than not we are at least as interested in the creative side as the business side”, as Mécs puts it.

While Muhi studied law, Mécs is a graduate of the film producer course at the University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest, where "emphasis was placed on educating producers, who are not just businesspeople, but who also represent a certain taste and world view, which is expressed in their films”. She says that "this gave me a very strong foundation, but later I learnt a huge amount from András, whose taste and professionalism I trust without reservation. It’s safe to say that I think of him as my mentor.”

Muhi explains his approach by highlighting that "I always tried to create value within the universe of European auteur cinema, and at the same time I always embraced projects that represented something new in Hungarian cinema, be that a thematic, stylistic or technical novelty.” But there is also a certain difference between the processes of the two producers. Muhi refers to himself as the objective one: he says it is not necessary for him to personally like the film he is making if he thinks it is of value. Mécs represents a more emotional approach: "If I am touched by the script I will probably try to make it.” They also have a third partner, Mécs’s husband Ernő Mesterházy, who is less involved with the creative side of the projects and works more in the background, making sure that all the financial and organisational elements are in place.

So far two features have been produced under the Inforg-M&M Film banner, and both were invited to compete at the Berlinale. The first was Bence Fliegauf’s 'Just the Wind', which was in competition in 2012 and won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize. The film is based on the series of racially motivated murders of Roma people that took place in Hungary in 2008-2009. It is a fictionalised story that has had universal resonance.

The second film is 'On Body and Soul', the first feature by Ildikó Enyedi ('My Twentieth Century', 'Magic Hunter' and 'Simon the Magician') in 18 years. It is a love story about two people who keep appearing in each other’s dreams but don’t find it so easy to connect in real life. As the film deals with the relatable subject of the difficulties of love and has a sensitively humorous tone, the producers trust that it will touch audiences both abroad and in Hungary.

The development of 'On Body and Soul' started more than ten years ago, but once Inforg-M&M Film received a grant from the Hungarian National Film Fund the process was easy, as by that point the script only needed a few small tweaks. As Mécs puts it, "this was one of those films that really wanted to be born”. Even the usually reserved Muhi blurts out that "this is the best script I’ve ever read”. Along the way it turned into somewhat of a family project too, when Muhi’s two children got involved with the film: András Pires Muhi, who is already an experienced producer and director in his own right, was the line producer, while Zsófia Muhi – together with Irma Ascher – was responsible for casting.

The production duo are very content with the way 'On Body and Soul' has turned out: "it has a magical feel to it, which is visualised beautifully”, says Mécs, who also showers praise on the leading actors, Alexandra Borbély and Géza Morcsányi, admitting that they were originally very worried about the fact that Ildikó Enyedi wanted a non-professional in the lead male role, "but Ildikó just knew that this would work, and she kept insisting, against our protests. She turned out to be right.”

Bori Bujdosó