This is the story of a friendship between a young filmmaker and a blind director of photography, between Sebas and Gabor.
Hungarian filmmaker Gabor resides in Spain and has been making a living there by renting out high-definition cameras ever since he lost his sight on a shoot eight years ago. This is the meeting point between the two. Sebas decides to do a documentary about Gabor’s life: his adolescence in Communist Hungary, his escape across the border with false papers, his work as a director of photography, his loss of sight while on a shoot, how he dealt with this blow and how he reintegrated himself into the world of cinema.
From that moment on, the film assumes the form of a metalanguage in which the relationship between the two characters is recorded, as well as their discussions about the shoot. For Gabor, it means the chance to return to his old job as a director of photography, and for Sebas it is a vital necessity. But they have to achieve it together by resolving one small detail: if Gabor cannot see, how will he be able to film? Sebas will be Gabor’s eyes and Gabor will contribute all his experience.
LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR
Even before I met Gabor, I knew his story was too interesting not to tell. A director of photography who became blind is not only a very cruel joke of fate, is it also a metaphor in itself. Later, after I met him, I realised that beyond his story lay a rich and complex personality, a struggle to surmount obstacles. And I decided to show this.
Gabor Bene not only lost his sight eight years ago, he also lost his working tool and livelihood at the same time. But instead of drowning himself in self-pity, he went ahead with a foolproof formula: to laugh at himself. As Gabor says, referring to his new profession: “the fact that I can fix a film camera over the phone says a lot about the audiovisual market today”. Or complaining about how fast his investment in cameras loses its value: "If I’d known, I would’ve become an antiquarian”.
In Broken Embraces, the character of the director says: “what’s the worst thing that can happen now that I’ve become blind?” This sense of humour when faced with the inevitable and this way of approaching difficult issues coincide with the tone of my other film projects, shorts and, more deeply, with the philosophy I believe in and has guided me towards not being mistaken in choosing this topic.
Film was present in our discussions all the time. Gabor saw his last film eight years ago. His memory allows him to remember scenes and, as occurs in these cases, vision loss has significantly improved access to his visual memory. This unique feature gave me the idea of playing a game; in fact, we did so in one of our first meetings: I projected a film and from what he was listening to, Gabor described what he remembered in each scene, with a wealth of details. Wielding a keen sense of film criticism, the scenes that he could not describe shot by shot meant that, according to Gabor, they were “not essential to the film”.
The character appeared before me in every sense. Gabor was not only a director of photography who became blind, he was also a person with a lot of training, a philosophical and political position, the result of having studied film and photography at a time and place in which having a camera in hand meant wanting to say something. Something that could have serious consequences later.
There is one fact about this book that I found very significant: the manuscript of this novel was burned and Bulgakov had to rewrite it by rote. I thought that if a writer could write a novel by rote, perhaps a director of photography could do the same, shooting from his memory. I set out to advance the story with an unusual question at least: could Gabor rejoin the team for a film project?
In addition to being someone with a great cinematographic memory and expertise, I suspected that if we could find a way to integrate it into our team, if I could open that door, I would find a lot of energy and love for work, able to inspire us all. And there it was. With the difference that it was us who joined in his team.
At that time, the challenge of the day of shooting was very satisfying and I intimateling: all of the team stopped seeing Gabor as a blind man and passed to accept him as a collaborator, someone valuable to advance in this field, unknown to all but to him. It was a very special day for everyone. As Gabor said, re-shoot was "like being at home ... better than being at home.