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Silence and Cry reminds me more of Jancsó's My Way Home, where Jancsó
is still in his mannered interpersonal melee and strife period and yet
he injects a modicum of storyline and pathos.
This is a miserable film in the sense that it is clear that nothing good is ever going to come of events right from the start, and there is also more obvious sadism than in the other Jancsó movies I've seen.
One thing that I think severely disables Jancsó from being as recognised as I believe he should be is that you are really facing difficulties if you haven't understood the context of his films. As in fact to a great extent they are portraying particular episodes in Hungarian history rather than being decontextualised avant-gardism. In a more recent film of his, The Lord's Lantern in Budapest, the Hungarian cultural references are overflowing. So this sort of film will probably never make it out of Hungary, unless Hungary become the world's next hyperpower - unlikely.
The background to this film is a post-World War one setting where a short-lived communist government has been overrun by right-wing nationalists, aristocratic remnants, and secret police. Well the commies are actually the good guys here, which may be difficult for a state-side audience to comprehend. As in a country under the iron-fisted rules of Hapsburg types has a right to explode out into communism. Anyway, one of these freedom-fighters is on the run and takes refuge on a farm where he is looked after by two pretty young ladies. I am sure this is most enjoyable for him there, is much ultra-cultured of face-rubbing, unfortunately I don't know any ladies of this type.
When I say the commies are the goodies, Jancsó is more of a humanist than a commie, although I'm sure he was a good revolutionary too. Anyway this was a very difficult film for me to watch as I am really quite autistic and I need emotional cues to understand what is going on. This is why I can't digest Bresson. Also Miklós Jancsó really has divested the film here of any melodrama, which however I do appreciate to a certain extent, especially due to the subject matter. It's a slow-burn film whose emotional impact is most overwhelming to me now, an hour after watching.
We're shown a small population under the control of a military police force, the police chief here knows the freedom-fighter from many years ago and so is content to let him hide out. However other more hardcore forces are roaming the countryside checking up that people are loyally royalist. In that case István still has to maintain a very low profile.
So our idealist has to stay schtum. Which is a problem because the two ladies he is with are poisoning the husband of one of them, and his mother. This is very naughty of them.
Our idealist has a problem, should he report it to the authorities? By what authority do these authorities hold authority? The authorities will be forced to execute him if he reports it because he is a commie and will have to reveal this fact. It is a mind-boggling dilemma. And if Miklós had played it for any melodramatic potential, it would have been excruciating to watch.
One cannot be help but be humanised by Miklós Jancsó's films of this period once you see past the stylisation. It has occurred to me on a deep level tonight that not even Jancsó's supposedly one-note period, is actually one-note.
After the style of Round Up Jancso has a photo collage at the beginning of the film of military types in parades and such like, this is very humorous to me, he plays a silly pathetic childlike rendition of some doubtlessly military theme single-fingered on a piano over the top, just to show us what he think of those damned military-aristo types.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
i believe it's a little too symbolic to grasp the logic of the events, as for poisoning the mother by those two women. but still great as Jansco's other masterpieces. wonderfully choreographed scenes of desperately seeking for refuge. meanwhile, wondering what's the best, to save the nest or to save what has made it. what should be finished off? the characters are visited repeatedly with no advantage of appearance, as if there's no major rule for any body. the one who has already found the power over the town would be killed by the running Istevan, who seems to be an idealist in the eyes of the commander. they might have been in the same point in the beginning, he mentions Istevan volunteering for the front, anyway he would be overpowered soon by the hands of Istevan, but that's not the point, there's No Way Home for this idealist, the same thing would happen to him by the hands of the sergeant. relations are as always in Jansco's case symbolic. Istevan's friendships and seeking for refuge, ... .
The story takes place just after WW1. A right wing government has taken
over after a short lived communist government. A young left wing leader
is hiding at a farm where women behave like victims (which they are)
but at the same time they are plotting against the arrogant and stupid
men in power. Men who are proud of the fact that they would kill their
own father if they were ordered to do so. In this right wing culture
the capacity to obey is a bigger virtue than the capacity to love.
Miklós Jancsó is dealing with the same themes in this film as in The Red and the White (1967) and The Round-Up (1966). It is shot in the same style and is just as pessimistic. Silence and Cry is however far from as hard hitting as the other two. It is only 73 minutes long but I got restless while watching it. I felt Miklós Jancsó was just repeating himself here with nothing new or clever to say about misuse of power. It is only at the end of the film that something of interest starts to happen.
It is a little strange that this does not work as well as the other ones since this has more of a plot. Maybe the problem is that the plot is revealed too late. For most of the time we don't know what is happening and we don't get these wonderful atmosphere scenes as in The Round-Up and The Red and the White. We know there is a story here but we are never really a part of it (or at least I was not).
The title of this film contains two concepts previously met at ingmar bergman (silence) and michelangelo antonioni (cry). Although I wouldn`t say this is the reason jancso uses them for, I think they involve a definite psichology and one should watch it only as a conosceur of art films as the likes.in order to fully understand it. Also, using two such extreme concepts analyzing the shades of human spirit, it manages to portray a tuff philosophical image of its depths.
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