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An Interview with József Gallai, Director of I Hear the Trees Whispering

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2021

Films directed by József Gallai on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie I Hear the Trees Whispering - in a few words, what is it about?

 

According to its synopsis, I Hear the Trees Whispering is about a lonesome man takes a job in the middle of the woods after running from his tormented past, but it soon turns out nothing around him is what it seems.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing I Hear the Trees Whispering, and is any of it based on personal experiences?

 

If I have to mention some kind of inspiration, I would rather turn to video games and walking simulators such as Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, What Remains of Editch Finch, Firewatch or The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. It’s pretty interesting, as I very rarely played these games but often preferred to watch their gameplays without commentaries on the internet. I was very much captivated by their atmosphere, but often something was missing in the stories, and the conclusion was unappealing to me in almost any of them. I started to think about my own little story I wanted to make with such an approach and with my characters, and finally I Hear the Trees Whispering was born.

 

Do talk about your film's approach to the thriller genre?

 

The thriller as well as the mystery are more to be found in the atmosphere and locations, although at the heart of the story the protagonist has to be confronted with several mysterious events that create an increasingly suffocating environment for him. The choice of locations and the particular cinematographic approach, as well as the colours and score, will strengthen this feeling.

 

What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I worked on this story in a similar way to my other films. I like to capture the atmosphere of the location, usually with a pretty small crew, experimenting a lot and even adding new things to the story if possible.

 

I Hear the Trees Whispering has a pretty stellar, international cast - so do talk about your actors, and how did you get some of them even, and what was it like working with them?

 

I can safely say that I have worked with true professionals and I am truly grateful for the opportunity. Gábor Varga is one of the best – if not the best – voice actors in my country, and I have already worked with him before. I loved his approach because he immediately understood Will’s intentions and worked a lot on the character. This is my first major collaboration with Laura Saxon, and I'm sure this is just the first major step on our journey together. Though he appears in a smaller role, Bill Oberst jr [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here] does a wonderful and memorable job, and honestly I never dreamed that Academy Award nominee Larry Hankin would agree to have a role in my film. After The Poltergeist Diaries, I had the opportunity to work with Anita Tóth again, who I would dare to trust in any role and I am very much grateful to have been able to work with her in this film. The film may be the jewel in the crown of my ten-year working relationship with DoP/editor/composer Gergő Elekes [Gergő Elekes interview - click here], but I also need to say that the film would not have come to fruition without the support and trust of producers Roy McClurg and Jon Vangdal Aamaas, as well as Kai Destiny & Mickey Raymond of Da Yamms Entertainment.

 

It appears your forest location also plays a big role in I Hear the Trees Whispering - so where was your movie filmed, and what was it like filming there?

 

Yes, the forest, which belongs to a small Hungarian village called Isztimér, plays a very important role in this story. The small house that served as the main location was literally in the middle of the forest, and we didn't meet anyone during the shooting, apart from a few tourists. At night, there was a rather eerie atmosphere in the area, but I loved filming here very much.

 

Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Bill Oberst Jr. and Larry Hankin's scenes were finalised during the spring, and everything was done perfectly in two days. We shot a few days in July and now in November. It was a family atmosphere without any major disruptions. In the summer, we had to vary the cast a bit, as it was difficult to travel to Hungary because of the quarantine, but in the end we overcame all the difficulties with some creative solutions. We had nine days of shooting in total, in fantastic locations with great people. It was a great experience.

 

The $64-question of course, when and where will I Hear the Trees Whispering be released onto the general public?

 

As I see we will finish all the work by January. After that it will have its festival season and hopefully it will be available worldwide in the summer or autumn of 2022.

 

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Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

One can follow the movie on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ihearthetreeswhispering

Trailer: https://youtu.be/fsUvCptGcvU

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
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directed by
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written by
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