A tale about a strange young man, Bulcsú, the fellow inspectors on his team, all without exception likeable characters, a rival ticket inspection team, and racing along the tracks... And a tale about love.
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Ghost trains and ghostly characters, figuratively speaking of course, are what run through the perpetual night of this underground metro system. Bulcsú's (Sándor Csányi) life that once was, on the surface, where the real people go home after work, who go to the movies or a fine restaurant is now replaced by the dark, cold and solitude arena of his new dwellings. He, and his motley crew of ragtag metro ticket Kontrollers must patrol the trains that run these City dwellers back and forth and with daily ritual, check that no one dare come down into their world for a free ride. With indifferent passengers, a possible love interest, a regime set on competition and to top it all a mysterious serial killer at large, Kontroll is a dark and bleak comedy of the world of the ticket inspector, who, in the end must keep this Metro system running. If not, what would be the worst that could happen, if they ever lost control? Dare you ride here for free, too? Written by
The film opens with a prologue featuring a real-life Budapest metro official declaring this film is in no way representative of Budapest's underground system, but nevertheless he's in full support (!) of this feature. Probably enscenated by the director, or he must be one hell of a charming fellow to convince the underground authorities in Budapest to allow this kind of endorsement.
This is a smart film. A cynical blender of genres and styles, completely in tune with the 21th century world of chaos, anarchy, despair and poverty we live in. It's a modern language. If this was American, it would define a generation. I'm positive it had this effect on many young Hungarians.
We have a closely confined space here: The Budapest underground rail system. Bulcsú, our main protagonist, is a controller in the Budapest metro. That's his job, leading a motley bunch of rival ticket inspectors. The film never comes above ground. Bulcsú never even leaves the system. He sleeps on the platforms, all he seems to eat or drink is coffee from the machines on the platforms. God knows what he lives on.
The crucial part is in the second half when Bulcsú meets an acquaintance of him on the platform, an middle-aged man who seems like a former professor of him or some kind of mentor. He is clearly embarrassed to run into him in the state he's in. What is it he's hiding from? He seems a well-educated young man. His acquaintance speaks of the promising young Bulcsú. Was he a promising scientist? What was his life like prior to the hellish job he does now? The rest, the extremely aggressive and unwilling passengers, rivalry among colleague ticket inspectors, even a shadowy serial killer who pushes unsuspecting travelers before trains, it's all a sideshow, but a brilliant one. The perfect backdrop for his troubled existence.
Sándor Csányi gives a brilliantly understated performance, perfectly in tune with the daylight-ridden world he lives in.
The silent scene where Bulcsú sits on a large ventilator shaft, echos Ridley Scott, a kind of existential ALIEN-film. Long tracking shots, a neon-lit world, an energetic techno-driven soundtrack. One can argue about the choice of music, the moral stance of the incredibly aggressive passengers but all is perfectly on par with the director's visual ideas. This director is in total control and knows how to express his ideas on film.
Very impressive, make sure you see this.
A small side-note: Nimród Antal, who grew up in LA, is currently finishing his latest film VACANCY, starring Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson, scheduled for US release on 20 April 2007 and, I can hardly believe it, a cinematic release in the Netherlands as well, scheduled for 19 July 2007). I expect the worst and hope for the best.
Camera Obscura --- 10/10
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