Hanna’s Bistro

Áron Török
Timeless Awards: Would you mind introducing yourself?
Áron Török: My name is Áron Török, I live in Budapest. I majored in Hungarian at the Faculty of Humanities of ELTE. I’ve been working as a film editor for fifteen years, and to my great pleasure, on occasions, I also have the opportunity to write and direct. An acquaintance of mine has recently asked me why we always introduce ourselves by our jobs, when we could say so many other things. So what else can I say? I like the ocean, Led Zeppelin and most of all, Fellini.
TA: How did you find out about our festival? What made you register your film for it?
ÁT: We discovered the Festival online. As soon as we read the announcement there was no doubt our movie had to be here. Stream of consciousness is quite apparent in the narrative techniques of Hanna’s Bistro. Everything we can learn about the world is conveyed to the viewer through the very subjective lens of the main character, without any objective reference points. And without objective support or an external reference point, the concept and perception of time is rearranged. From the announcement of Timeless Awards it was clear that the organizers also find this theme important.
TA: Your film is a special one since it has been awarded twice. First, it was picked as the Best Narrative Short, and it won the Audience Award at Four Seasons Event later. But I feel like I need to ask you about the main values of our Festival. What are your reflections about Memory and Time? How does the theme of Memory and Time translate into the cinema? And your cinema, in specific?
ÁT: The whole crew was very happy about the awards, it’’s a particularly great pleasure for me that the Festival highlighted the film.Perhaps one continuous intention of art is to create a connection between people who view at least certain elements of existence and the human phenomenon in a similar manner. This way a possibly isolated stream of consciousness becomes a joined, extended experience. And perhaps time and moment can also be truly experienced in this way: together, in community. The meeting of the Festival and Hanna provided a wonderful opportunity for all that. The interest of the young audience will remain a fond memory of mine. I believe it is vital that the dreams we cherish do not remain isolated, that they are allowed to be shared with others. Otherwise we could end up like the protagonist of the film, Hanna.
TA: What was your first idea? How did you expand it, step by step? How did it grow into your film?
ÁT: Even in my early 20s I was intrigued by the relation of beholder and their object. I was greatly influenced by the works of Sartre, Heidegger - the ones I could understand at least. I will never forget one of Sartre’s sentences: “Hell is other people”. Meaning that if we continuously view ourselves through other people’s eyes, we will be at their mercy. I believe this road doesn’t necessarily lead to hell, far from it! I believe we can find hell, heaven and all things in between in other people’s viewpoints and judgements. I consider this to be the most gripping part of the human adventure. I strive to experience the wholeness of this, so to say, even if it carries the possibility of failure within.

The birth of Hanna’s Bistro was preceded by a very complex process; I’ll try to simplify it. One day I saw the post of an unknown girl on a social media platform. She talked about her bistro, and for some reason the overwhelming perfection she used to describe her restaurant was suspicious, it almost seemed desperate. And then I saw she posts about this bistro quite frequently, in a similarly exaggerated style. Soon after, I learned from a mutual friend that the bistro she posts about closed down years ago. In that moment so much content came together in my mind that I’ve unintentionally made about people creating alternative realities on social media platforms. The mysterious, lonely masters of this stream of consciousness. The figure of this unknown girl became the major inspiration of this film. I started watching her from afar, in a sense: I became her hell. This phenomenon made me angry at first, then bitter, and in the end I developed a kind of empathy towards the character. I tried to portray the enclosed world of this character so others can escape.
TA: During the Q&A session with our audience, you mentioned a considerable role of poetry and literature in general in your process of writing. Would you like to come back to this topic once more?
ÁT: Communicating with the audience was very exciting, I was glad they had so many questions, which helped me to understand the film a bit more. I remember talking about an essay on aesthetics by my favourite Hungarian poet, Attila József. This work is also very important to me. He defines the purpose of artwork in finally making the chaotic, in his words “unperceivable” cosmos into a “perceivable complete work of art”. I have a feeling that what happens in social media is similar to this, but our attention is no longer directed to the universe, but to ourselves. Why do we create a framed attraction of our own lives, why the compulsion? Following Attila József’s train of thought we might come to the conclusion, that the reason is, we ourselves have now become chaotic and “unperceivable”.
TA: What does your creative process look like?
ÁT: I first developed the textual voice of the character, then I examined what topics she is interested in. They are mostly about striving for perfection. For this reason I started to monitor any content in which - even if subtly - I seemed to encounter the imperative of perfectionism. I still believe that even with the most seemingly well-meaning instagram or facebook messages people are trying to convey that they are not enough, and something needs to be made better in their lives. A person today needs no more than an innocent question from an unknown coach to start deconstructing their present.

I also collected visual inspiration mostly from this self-perfecting world. Finally, the textual and visual motives came together, and afterwards I began searching for creative partners and set scenes. One of the most challenging tasks was finding the actress. I searched for almost a year, before it became apparent to me that Panka Kovács is the best choice. Panka is astonishing, it amazes me even today, when I recall how she transformed into Hanna. To me, this is an absolutely mysterious and magical thing, and I am really grateful to her. Finally, when we already had a plan, we were able to organize the shoot with the continuous support of producers Judith Csernai, Arthur Barna Kulcsár, and Walter Áron Nagy. Covid was raging and it seemed so was everything else, I will never forget the painful overstimulation of that period.
TA: What equipment were you using for filming?
ÁT: I cannot give an accurate account of this. The film features footage from five different cameras (Black Magic, Sony, Panasonic, Iphone, DJI Mavic). We always used the equipment that best supported our concept and was the most feasible.
TA: How about the postproduction?
ÁT: The fantastically exciting post production filled with doubts and joy lasted for almost four months. Experimenting with colours, rhythm, sounds and music… This is perhaps the most beautiful part of filmmaking for me.
TA: Can we see your film somewhere? Is it available online?
ÁT: Our film can now also be viewed online with English subtitles.
March 2023