An image I shall never forget is that of Antonioni and Kurosawa accompanying him around the shrine—three of the cinema’s great masters laughing and chatting informally. Ray gave off an intense self-confidence without seeming in the slightest degree arrogant or complacent. Never sentimental, he probably agreed with the king in The Chess Players, who says that “nothing but poetry and music should bring tears to a man’s eyes.” While in Agra, he told Kurosawa about a huge tree in India that measured almost one mile in girth. Much later, Kurosawa wrote to him, reminding him of that incident and saying, “I have always felt from the first time I met you that you are the kind of man who is like a huge tree. A great tree in the woods in India.”
-Peter Cowie on Satyajit Ray
I want to express the failure of erotic desire to be realized in contemporary urban space. I would like to make my films about disappearing, like The Skywalk is Gone  and Goodbye Dragon Inn. The whole theatre is disappearing in that film! This subject is important to me because society changes so fast and everything disappears so fast – historical sites, culture. One day I walked to the area where Lee Kang-Sheng was selling watches [in What Time is it There?], and I realized that ‘the skywalk is gone.’ It happens in Asia like that, things just disappear. People in their forties have no way of finding traces of their childhood. Modern people are afraid of disappearance. Living in Taipei, for example, we constantly have to deal with compelling visual change. We ask the question: what do you love the most? Who do you love the most? You will lose them – it will happen in modern society. My films ask the question: how we can face the disappearance? The loss?
Personally, I don’t see cinema itself as truly important. I am not crazy for film. I chose film as a medium, as an instrument with which I can explain my ideas and to describe what is going on in my head and heart. And I think that I have been pretty successful at it. I have made nine feature films and a short for UNICEF.
Eight films deal with Iranian women, the middle class, and social, economic, and other problems. I try to show our society what is going on in women’s heads, what are their hopes, what they want and love. I attempt to describe my ideas to our society. And I am not like other directors. For example, I don’t concern myself with foreign film festivals. I love my people and I love it when Iranians come and see my films. I am truly happy that I am so successful outside of Iran, but my main goal is to satisfy the Iranian public.
I always thought, even when I was a critic, that the brutal and simplistic reaction of the spectator is a good thing. I know that back then in Cahiers, we praised very commercial films in trying to defend them from a point of view that was not that of the man on the street. But this point of view doesn’t bother me. If people want to take things literally in the film, things that I myself may not take literally, I don’t say that this goes against its meaning, I say that it’s a more unsophisticated way of receiving the film, that’s all. I absolutely take on board every interpretation. That doesn’t mean I have to accept them, but once I finish a film, it escapes me, it closes itself off from me, and I can’t enter it any more. It’s up to the public to penetrate through whichever door they wish. I am not speaking about critics, who claim to have found the key, the right key, the only one which opens the big entrance gate. But that’s not my problem any more, thank God. I am not looking for the keys to Hitchcock any more, like I used to.
[Senses of Cinema]
What was it like making Monika?
I didn’t make Monika. [Source novel author and coscreenwriter Per Anders] Fogelström bred her in me and then, like an elephant, I was pregnant for three years, and last summer she was born with a big ballyhoo. Today, she is a beautiful and naughty child. I hope she will cause an emotional uproar and all sorts of reactions. I shall challenge any indifferent person to a duel!
A wild paternal love, indeed!
For most people, a film is a short-lived product, like soap, matches, or polished false teeth. But not for the film director. He lives with his opus (like the devil, he does) until opening night, when he unwillingly surrenders it to the public.
-Ingmar Bergman, in an interview with himself.
What made you interested in making films, coming from that background?
Bela Tarr: I loved the cinema always, and I loved to go watch movies. But what I saw there was just stupid lies and fake stories. I never saw life and I never saw anything about the people I knew. I never saw real passion, I never saw real emotions, or real camerawork. I never saw a real movie. I thought, if they cannot show me, then I have to do my movie.
Were you seeing Hollywood films or local ones?
Bela Tarr: Everything everywhere is the same. The whole fucking storytelling thing is everywhere the same. That’s why I decided I have to do my movies.