Natasa Stork, born in Budapest, Hungary, has spent her acting career with one foot firmly placed in theater and the other one in film. After completing her studies at the University of Theatre and Film in 2008, she joined the Hungarian National Theatre Company. During her two years with the classical theater company, she continued to act in independent, experimental work both on stage and on screen. In 2010, she was granted a one-year EU Scholarship to study dance in Amsterdam, another of her passions. She followed this up with performances on stage for innovative companies such as Krétako¨r led by Árpád Schilling and Kornél Mundruczó’s Proton Theater as well as in international theater projects including “One Land Many Faces” (Carreau Du Tample, Paris, 2015), “The Impossible Vastness” (Hamburg, 2017) and “Die Unscheinbaren” (Luzerner Theater, Luzern, 2019). Parallel to her on-going theater work, she was cast in Márk Bodzsár “Heavenly Shift,” which was awarded Best Film at the International Film Festival Porto and in Kornél Mundruczó’s “White God,” which won the Un Certain Regard Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. In 2020, she was cast in her first leading role in a feature film, Lili Horvát’s “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time.” The film has won top awards at several international film festivals and her performance received Best Actress Awards at the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, the Les Arcs Film Festival and the Valladolid International Film Festival.
Ahead of the 2021 European Shooting Stars Awards Ceremony on Monday 14 June during the Berlinale Summer Special, Tara Karajica talks to Natasa Stork about being an actress, a European Shooting Star, women in film and her next projects.
What made you want to become an actress?
Natasa Stork: My father was a well-known art director and production designer for Hungarian and international films. Being around filmmakers and film scripts gave me the feeling of coziness in my childhood. So, I was drawn to acting by the love of movies. I would keep rewinding the VHS tapes to observe the great actresses – the way they work – and tried to catch what makes them so unique and seductive. But, on the other hand, as a kid, I was reserved and timid. I kept thinking that I should try and work on the other side of the camera, for instance to become a cinematographer. But, somehow, my instincts finally told me to enroll in the University’s acting class. Ironically, in my first job as an actor, I played the role of a stumbling Cinematography student.
You have recently starred in Lili Horvát’s Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, a film about the slippery relationship between consciousness and desire that flips the femme fatale trope on its head by taking Márta’s – the enigmatic woman – point of view. Can you elaborate on that?
N.S.: As well as using it, this film questions the usual stereotype of the genre and tells the story of the femme fatale from a female perspective. This way, shedding light on the fact that it’s not only the woman who is the object of desire, but also the man she fancies. As I see it, both main characters are equally mysterious and distant. They both suffer from desiring someone they hardly know. Finally, the film has sort of a bitter-sweet conclusion. However, I believe this is a film that stands for love.
Portraying the character of Márta earned you the Best Actress Awards at several film festivals last year. Can you talk about that character? How do you see Márta? Are you anything like her?
N.S.: Márta is fundamentally an intelligent and rational woman who finds herself in a fragile state of mind because of an unusual encounter. And, she is willing to take illogical steps in order to pursue her instincts. So, we see that feelings in certain situations can override common sense. Sometimes, I think of Márta as a client who I worked for as a lawyer. Sometimes, as a close friend. I had to understand her motivations. I’m sure that through Márta’s character, I learned many things about myself and the mechanisms of emotions.
How have you prepared for this role? What drew you to it?
N.S.: I don’t believe in peeling off all of my personal features, and building up an entirely new character. I prefer finding what’s personal in the story and making it my own, lending some of my attributes to the role. But, at the same time, I look at preparation as a luxury that I can afford. With my director, Lili Horvát, we had long discussions before the shoot, we experimented with different gestures and tones. I watched films with my favorite actresses in their forties. Getting close to a new character is like lion taming. I also attended operations at the clinic where, once a week, I had the opportunity to follow one of Hungary’s most famous neurosurgeons, Dusán Vitanovics, who was the film’s medical expert. These occasions helped me a lot. With time, all of the unnecessary gestures faded. As Lili put it: “After a while, you are not a tourist anymore.” I remember a funny moment when I was at a consultation, dressed in a medical outfit, and Dusán looked at me seriously and asked in front of the patient: “So, what do you think, doctor?”
You have acted on the stage and in film. Which one do you prefer? Why?
N.S.: I come from a theatrical background that prefers a hyper realistic approach: film like acting on stage. Maybe that’s why I feel the two have many things in common. Theater is long distance running. You start at 7 pm and you have to remain in character until 9 pm while film consists of many sprints. But, their essence is the same: you need a special mixture of consciousness and instincts. Both in film and theater, an actor is looking for the effect of spontaneity and the feeling of improvisation.
How do you pick a role? Which one is your favorite, if any?
N.S.: My favorite is always the one I’m working on. Hungary is a very small industry. I often feel that roles pick me and not the other way around. You are usually very grateful when they offer you one. Nevertheless, in my twenties, I rejected my first offer for a leading role in a feature film. It would have included too much sexuality from an exclusively male perspective and I didn’t feel comfortable with it. For me, the connection with the director is essential, and there has to be mutual trust. Last but not least, I need to like the story. I must believe in its message.
What does being a European Shooting Star mean for your career and how do you think it will impact it?
N.S.: I’m genuinely thrilled to be a part of the European Shooting Stars program. I had the chance to meet a lot of wonderful and interesting people and professionals. At the same time, I don’t usually fantasize much; I believe in faith as far as my career is concerned. I always try to focus on being ready for the next project instead of daydreaming.
What does it take to be a star, according to you?
N.S.: Luck. But, as Tom Waits quotes Seneca in one of his songs: “Luck is when opportunity meets with preparation.”
There has been a lot of talk about women in film the past three years. What do you make of the situation of women in film? How is the situation in Hungary?
N.S.: When we start to watch a film with my boyfriend, my first question is always: Does it have an interesting female lead? Someone you can relate to. One of my favorite experiences was The Bridge, the Danish-Swedish series. Saga Noren was not only a lovable female character, but she also introduced the viewpoints of a person with Asperger’s syndrome. As far as I know, there are much more male roles in Hungarian films than female ones. However, European films are famous for their tendency to portray elaborate and complex female characters; that is to say: they are often hard to pigeonhole. I also feel extremely lucky to have worked with two amazing female directors in the past few years: Lili Horvát and Fanni Szilágyi. I feel that with a male director, there’s always a special filter through which he portrays what he thinks about the opposite gender. It doesn’t mean it’s negative, it can be sensitive and playful as well. A female filmmaker is often looking for herself in the actress she chooses, so it has something intimate, based on common knowledge. The best case scenario for an actress is if she can try both.
Who is your favorite female filmmaker? Is there one you would love to work with?
N.S.: There are so many female filmmakers I’m fond of. But, if I had to choose one, it would probably be Sofia Coppola.
I understand your next project is Ice Cream Could Be Dangerous (working title) by Fanni Szilágyi. Can you talk about it? What else do you have in the pipeline?
N.S.: I was in an exciting situation as an actress when shooting Ice Cream Could Be Dangerous. I was playing identical twins, both of them. The plot is about two highly vulnerable and fragile sisters who are frustrated with one another. They are both successful in different fields, but each of them feels that the other one has achieved much more. The biggest challenge for me was to bring forward their differences by capturing minor details, and not by representing the extremes. I’ve also just finished shooting a short film directed by Balázs Lengyel, and I have some upcoming theater projects once the pandemic is over. I really look forward to working in films again.
Photo credit: Eszter Zsuzsanna Haradzy.
This interview was conducted in partnership with: