05-02-2008

39th Hungarian Film Week -- Day 4 (Feb. 4)

4th day
Shorts at Filmweek
February 04. 2008. 19:09; item
Standing out in the strong competition is Péter Gothár's short, a perfect unity of form and content. His Tanúvallomás (Testimony) dramatizes a perfectly written female monologue. Location is a dilapidated station house where a woman testifies on a murder. The murderer is her own husband, whom she asked herself to threaten a homeless person as he was constantly glaring at her in the underpass. The threat, however, turned into something much more serious.

With her short Vacation Lili Horváth proved her talent in last year's Filmweek. Her follow-up this year is less powerful, though similarly professionally made. An adaptation of Geza Ottlik's short story, Uszodai tolvaj (Pool Thief) relates the end of a friendship with magnificent images and superb acting. However, it is unable to present the atmosphere of subdued emotions that poisons relationships with as heavy credibility as did Vacation.

Marcell Gerő's Kócos (Dishevelled) is an unsettling work. Perfect in its form, its content nevertheless is less than great. It's a Kafkaesque story of a boy who is constantly punished by his teachers for being different from his peers. In the end the boy of course subjects himself to the mental terror and wears the imbecile smile required for the class photo. The film features some convincing acting, breathtaking visuals and cleverly structured dramaturgy.

Also primarily a feast for the eyes is Csaba Jóvér's short. The story of a man arriving home from England for the remains of his late father lacks true drama. It relies more on satirical presentation of the Hungarian health care system. Main value of Hazatérés (Homecoming) is the single take during which the filmmaker presents the grotesque plot.

Nyári egyenlet (Summer Equation) attempts to link the atmosphere of an open-air playground with that of an alt-punk concert with strictly clean visual devices. Fast cuts and a couple of formal motives connect the smoky basement with the mountain clearing. Although there are a few clever visual tricks, the film's main virtue is its brevity.

Dániel Béres' short searches for reasons for the breakdown of communication in the labyrinths of history. Malter (Mortar) tells the story of a friendship reaching beyond borders. Thomas and Pali meet as children, hence they are not disturbed by the fact that the former lives in West Germany and the other in Budapest. They frantically write letters to each other right until the fall of the Wall, when their correspondence stops in those turbulent times. Fast forward 20 years into present day when Pali travels to Berlin to see his long lost friend. Paradoxically they begin to feel that although they can meet freely now, there is an invisible rift between them. Akin to Ferenc Török's popular first feature Moszkva tér, this short presents the mental wall still existing between East and West through humane and grotesque scenes. It's a wall harder to bring down than the solid one.

Ádám Császi's film takes its viewers into the lowest strata of Hungarian society. His Gyengébb napok (Weaker Days) recounts through the disturbing fate of a low rent prostitute how poverty and humiliation can become natural for a human being. Böbe exists in the state of total vulnerability as men consider her mere commodity. She is nonetheless attached to her pimp who channels his sexual frustration into aggression. The film tells the story of their unsuccessful attempts at a proper relationship. It presents a world where loving someone is difficult, as a person can simply be sold for a flat screen TV.

A less effective, but nicely structured short is Sára Cserhalmi's Szűkenszépen (Tightly Beautifully). With careful dramaturgy it shows how an aura of mistrust poisons family relationships. Its main virtue is presenting the events from the points of view of the husband, the wife and the kid at the same time. By offering the viewer all three characters to identify with, it presents the full spectrum of the suppressed fears and concerns of the family members.

Saját halál (Own Death) is an experimental film, adapting a literary work in a very unusual manner. Still, viewers often try to reach out to their movie experiences in case of experimental films too to help with processing the work. Own Death is reminiscent of Sándor Kardos' acclaimed Résfilm (Gap Film) as both adapt a short story by a narrator reading out the text while images illustrating it. Gap Film did the illustrating in the radical, unique form by shooting the film with a photo-finish device. For Own Death Péter Forgács uses existing techniques to create a visionary visual style. Blurry, lumpish, jerky motion pictures are mixed with graphic and photographic images and archive footage.
Last modified on 18-07-2008