The Exploration Of A Gruesome Urban Myth Through Film And Infidelity

Each country has their own urban myths, those legends that have been circulating forever though no one knew where they began. For Hungary this is, Gloomy Sunday, a song which has supposedly inspired many people to commit suicide. Filmmaker, Herbert Leung, film by the same name is an ominous exploration of this myth within the context of something we can all relate too: infidelity.

Gloomy Sunday – Director’s Cut by Herbert Leung

“The original idea came from a video I saw on YouTube, 10 unexplainable mysteries something like that’”, Herbert explained, “It briefly mentioned a forbidden song banded by the radio for decades, the legendary Gloomy Sunday, and how music has a psyche and emotions impact on human’s behavior.” Composed by pianist, Rezső Seress, the song has been dubbed the ‘Hungarian suicide song’ and it’s implications are well known.

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Merging commonly felt emotions with the elusive truth of the Gloomy Sundays suicides adds to the tension in the film. We are aware of the myth from the beginning but we don’t know who will fall victim to it as a jealous love triangle plays out. Shot in the stairwells, back alleys and cramped apartments of Hong Kong, the bi-lingual script takes us into the depths of humanity: where we are at our breaking points, where we are overcome with emotion, where love becomes distorted and inspires hate.

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We caught up with award-winning director to find out more.

The Plus: How did you come up with the storyline? Is being cheated on something personal to you?
Herbert Leung:
I am sure most people have experienced infidelity at some point in life and everyone who’s involved in that relationship ends up getting hurt. When your partner cheats on you, don’t you want to find out whom she or he is cheating on you with? We’re human beings and it is hard not to compare and ask ourselves the question “What does he/she have that I don’t?”

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TP: Do you yourself buy into legends and myths like the Gloomy Sunday one?
HL:
 I bought into the idea when I found out BBC banned this song from playing on the radio until 2002. I searched for the original Hungarian version of the music to listen. But I stopped right away after a good 30 seconds because it was 3am at that time.

TP: Why do you think people do buy into, or relate, to these sorts of stories?
HL:
I believe everyone can relate to an infidelity regardless the genre of the movie.

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TP: How long did the film take to shoot?
HL:
The film took 4 days to film because of the actor’s availability. Our filming took slightly longer also because they are first time actors.
 
TP: How did you assemble your crew?
HL:
The assembling of my crew was not easy because the limited size of our interior locations cannot fit more than 3 crews, not to mention the actors, we had to fill up other roles ourselves.  

TP: Who are the actors in it?
HL:
Speaking of actors, why did we end up using two French guys in this film? Although I grew up in Canada, my French was never great. In fact, I know them as friends and I’ve always wanted to have the experience directing a film in foreign language. The actors themselves were both product designer and they have no training in acting. It was an experience for me working with foreign non-actors. I wrote the screenplay in English and have one of them translated into French. I admit I had to learn a bit of French along the way making this film. With my limited French, I had to edit the film based on reading their facial expression and at the end of each draft, I called them back to watch the cut with me to ensure the dialogue make sense.

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TP: Why did you decide to intersperse two languages within the film?
HL:
At first, we found a French girl to play the girlfriend role but she left town for a business trip. I ended up hiring Rachel to play the role instead and she doesn’t know how to speak French.
 
TP: What is the significance of the girlfriend only smoking a quarter of her cigarette?
HL:
Having unfinished cigarettes signify of breaking a habit, and having to put out a two third of her cigarette is an indication of a change of beat.
 
TP: What 3 words would you use to describe the film?
HL:
Jealousy, Hatred, curiosity.

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