Film review: Provincia by György Mór Kárpáti

“Even sleepers are workers and collaborators in what goes on in the universe”, recites the Heraclitus quote that opens Provincia, and Otto, the protagonist, definitely seems to belong to this category. His day job as a supermarket delivery man leads him to an archaeological excavation site, where he is forced to stay after his van breaks down. In this unfamiliar location, Otto seems to awaken: he is out of his element, but really wants to fit in (this is evident in the scene where he looks through the window from the outside). He also displays a keen interest in the excavation... or maybe he is just trying to impress the archaeologist he met onsite.
The pared- down dialogue and minimalistic score allow us to focus on Otto fully, but also ensure that no detail is revealed unless it is absolutely essential, not letting us in on the character's motives or thoughts. This is a successful choice that, together with the understated cinematography, effectively leaves viewers suspended, wanting to know what happens next. As it is, Provincia feels like a reflection on the random nature of fate, on chance encounters that are destined to remain isolated instances –  but will they really stay that way? Only time will tell.

Cineuropa Shorts: The Heraclitean fragment seems to refer to Otto's metaphorical slumber. Was the film inspired by it? How/ why did you choose to include it? 

György Mór Kárpáti: This is exactly how I think of Otto. There are lots of people, who can't follow their inner passion because of their social status. Nevertheless, they play an importat role in society. Sometimes, all they need is a lucky coincidence to find a new path. In this story, Otto’s van breaks down and he ends up on an excavation site. I read the Heraclitean fragment quite a long time ago and it just occurred to me during the shooting that it would be a good idea to use it. 

The film withholds a lot of information from the audience, as we know almost nothing about the characters. Could you tell me more about this decision?

You can guess the main character’s situation and the monotony of his life from the first shots. I wanted to depict a simple, everyday situation, where the focus is on the protagonist’s encounter with the past and archaeology. I was interested in the nuances, how he discovers this world. In my feature film project, I’m working on a similar character, but of course, we will get to know him deeper. I’m working on a more detailed feature film after my elliptic short films. 

I feel that fate has a big role in Provincia. Would you agree?

I unintentionally depict similar situations in my short films: an outsider arrives in an unknown territory, at a frontier if you like. The protagonist in Midnight (2009) breaks into a highschool at night to meet a girl. In Forest (2011), which was featured at the Berlinale Shorts, a boy witnesses a crime in the woods and he can’t leave it behind, These are life changing situations. Fate plays an important role in Provincia, too. After the screenings, viewers always had different ideas about Otto’s further life.Will Provincia evolve into a longer film? Are you working on any other project at the moment?

At the moment I’m writing my first feature film, which will be a kind of summary of my previous shorts. Apart from writing, I would like to make another short film in the following months, as well.

You can watch the teaser for Provincia here.

14 October 2014, by Chiara Puntil