Benedek Fliegauf's Milky Way (Tejut) presents viewers with a puzzle. In each of the film's 10 segments, the stationary camera observes unnamed individuals interacting - mating, playing, helping one another - without additional context. As such, the scenes could pass for raw footage for an alien documentary about human life on Earth.
"Some people say that it's just a bluff, empty formalism, nothing more," says Fliegauf. "Others say it's a Zen masterpiece, with a very up-to-date artistic quality."
The film earned the director a Golden Leopard in the Filmmakers of the Present competition at the Locarno film festival earlier this year. It has reminded some viewers of the work of Laurie Anderson, David Lynch and Allan Watts, Fliegauf says, and even the writing of Kurt Vonnegut.
"For me Milky Way is 10 haiku," Fliegauf says, referring to the Japanese poetic form.
The germ of the film lies in a similar scene in the director's previous film, Dealer, which won awards at the Athens, Berlin, Budapest, Mar del Plata and Wiesbaden film festivals in 2004. The Dealer scene's composition turns a simple river bank into a landscape from another planet, Fliegauf says.
The film-maker says Milky Way expresses his view of humanity's inflated sense of self-worth. "Human beings are just one race in the biosphere. We behave and look like VIP guests on this planet, but we are not. In the film, the human beings look like little, very delicate creatures."
The project went from concept to festival print in just nine months. "During this time, my wife was pregnant with my son. I always spoke with him, when he was in the womb. I know it sounds creepy, but he taught me during the pregnancy."
In addition to his unborn son, Fliegauf received support from the Hungarian Motion Picture Public Foundation to the tune of $257,000 (for47m). The rest of the production budget came from an unnamed individual.
Fliegauf plans to promote the film with more festival screenings and a multi-media exhibition, which will accompany the film's general release following its local premiere at Hungarian Film Week next February. "The art agents think that it should be a very complex, deep hypnotic experience," Fliegauf says. "It's a kind of multimedia project. The DVD, CD publishing and galleries should be our real opportunity for marketing."
His next film, Womb, is in pre-production. "It's a dark, romantic, genetic movie," says Fliegauf, who is seeking a wider audience than that of Milky Way. The new project is a co-production between Germany's Razor Film and Hungarian outfit Inforg Studio.