Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Movie Magic from a First Time Film-Maker; the Only British Winner at the Berlin Festival Was a Debut Director from Reading, with a Film about Romania. If You Don't Do Gangster Movies You Have to Go Abroad, He Says

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Movie Magic from a First Time Film-Maker; the Only British Winner at the Berlin Festival Was a Debut Director from Reading, with a Film about Romania. If You Don't Do Gangster Movies You Have to Go Abroad, He Says

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK RODDICK

AS THE film industry keeps its fingers crossed for this weekend's Oscars, an unknown 35-year-old from Reading has brought Britain its first major prize of the year: a Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film is called Katalin Varga, an intense, brooding, almost surreal revenge drama set in Romania that couldn't be less like a Britflick if it tried.

Peter Strickland certainly appears very British -- a serious, mildly selfdeprecating man with a receding hairline -- but the first-time film-maker lives and works in central Europe and hates contemporary British cinema.

His idol is American maverick David Lynch and he loves Eraserhead. "I was writing scripts for years after seeing it," he says. "All my friends said, 'Oh, you're ripping off Eraserhead again!' But I want to annoy people, confuse them, confound them. The films I love make me angry." Katalin Varga's title character -- wonderfully played by stage actress Hilda Peter -- is certainly angry: thrown out of her village when her husband discovers their 10-year-old son is not his but the result of a rape, she sets out to track down and eliminate those responsible, bemused son in tow, travelling by horsedrawn wagon but carrying a mobile phone, which is not unusual in Romania.

That's it, really. But the telling of the story is mesmerising.

So how did he develop such a European sensibility? "I just lost interest in British cinema," he says. "The last great director was Nicolas Roeg. Peter Greenaway went too digital for me.

Derek Jarman died. I can't stand it really: gangster films, social realism... I want something larger than life, like Powell and Pressburger used to make.

When you see something on the big screen, you want amplification." Amplification must have been off the menu this time last year. After spending [currency]20,000 on shooting, he ran out of money. "I actually stopped the film for eight months. I moved back to Reading with my mother and tried to get a job. …

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