German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse while travelling in Turin, Italy. He tossed his arms around the horse’s neck to protect it then collapsed to the ground. In less than one month, Nietzsche would be diagnosed with a serious mental illness that would make him bed-ridden and speechless for the next eleven years until his death. But whatever did happen to the horse? This film, which is Tarr’s last, follows up this question in a fictionalized story of what occurred. The man who whipped the horse is a rural farmer who makes his living taking on carting jobs into the city with his horse-drawn cart. The horse is old and in very poor health, but does its best to obey its master’s commands. The farmer and his daughter must come to the understanding that it will be unable to go on sustaining their livelihoods. The dying of the horse is the foundation of this tragic tale. Continue reading
This movie is the very last opus of a great Czech director Frantisek Vlácil(1924-1999; Markéta Lazarová, Valley of the Bees, Concert at the End of Summer) and it’s truly his masterpiece.
In a breathtaking way it narrates some episodes from the life of possibly the most famous Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha (1810-1836). Actually the title of the film “Mág” may have two meanings, the first one (a mage) refers to the talent of the deeply romantic Mácha (played by outstanding Jirí Schwarz), the second one is the contemporary transcription of Mácha’s most famous poem Máj (May). Continue reading
Two days in the life of Saul Auslander, Hungarian prisoner working as a member of the Sonderkommando at one of the Auschwitz Crematoriums who, to bury the corpse of a boy he takes for his son, tries to carry out his impossible deed: salvage the body and find a rabbi to bury it. While the Sonderkommando is to be liquidated at any moment, Saul turns away of the living and their plans of rebellion to save the remains of a son he never took care of when he was still alive. Continue reading
This strange Hungarian film is a cross between a “candid camera” documentary and a surreal fantasy. The film’s two actors impersonate traveling portrait photographers visiting a small Hungarian village. There is an uncanny congruence between the peasants’ favored forms of photographic expression and the antique photographs that they are shown as examples of the kind of work they can hire. This becomes unsettling as the film shows the peasants of today investigating pictures of the peasants of yesteryear and looking exactly the same. Continue reading
In a story that hops around a little, a priest arrives in a village to go from person to person offering his own form of consolation or advice. On his list of “clients” is a former Communist Party official who is now wheelchair-bound because of a sniper’s bullet during the 1956 uprising; a woman dying of tuberculosis; an astronomer who sings with a punk rock group; a woman who leaves her soldier-husband to work in a nightclub; and their son. As these people suffer through personal travails, a surprise is in store for everyone — the priest is not exactly who he seems to be. Continue reading
Jancsó’s second feature film, received the Hungarian Critics’ Prize. In this work, influenced by Michelangelo Antonioni, Jancsó created the unique visual style by which he became known – the mesmerizing, sweeping, ballet-like camera movement, which emphasize the relation between the characters and the landscape, the vast Hungarian plain, around them. In considering the latter aspect, Jancsó’s cinematic world has connections with the traditional western, although not on the ideological level. Movement is for Jancsó both a guiding philosophical and aesthetical principle – “Is seems to me that life is a continual movement,” he once summarized. “It’s physical and it’s also philosophical: the contradiction is founded on movement, the movement of ideas, the movement of masses.” Continue reading
Based on the 1861 masterpiece by Hungarian playwright and poet Imre Madách, Az ember tragédiája (The Tragedy of Man) is a powerful drama in 15 acts that guide us through the past and the future of mankind. The narrative begins with the creation of the world, the first and the last acts frame the story that show us Adam and Eve travelling through space and time in search of the meaning of life – with the guidance of Lucifer himself. The first human couple travels from the Paradise through prehistoric times, the ancient Egypt, Hellas, Rome, the medieval Byzantine Empire, Kepler’s Prague, the French Revolution to the London of the 19th century, then Jankovics rushes us through the last 150 years of Europe and we get an insight to the future. The film is a highly dramatised version of the play: while it keeps the philosophical profoundness of Madách’s book it also visually highlights and makes Lucifer’s fight for the soul of the first man more compelling than ever. Continue reading