droll, irreverent film about people who take themselves very seriously
Calling this playful and hilarious film "Panic" is the first of many entertaining misdirections offered by writer/director Attila Till. Using the conventions of the mystery, the horror, the romance, the domestic drama, and a half dozen other genres, he concocts a consistently amusing film. That one cannot help being drawn into the melodramatic concerns of the characters, no matter how obvious and cartoon-like, is also part of Till's joke. Even as he (and his audience) laughs at the dramatics, he also mocks film-making (and himself) at its ability to manipulate the audience.
The title's obvious reference is to the condition of its main character, the beautiful Agi Gubik, a successful executive who has checked herself into an exclusive therapy spa to cope with her panic attacks. Ordered about by the strident but cheerful therapist (Judit Schell), she suffers through wacky sessions, from Western Siberian Spitting Therapy to American Note Reading Sessions. But her bizarre encounters are more than matched by the insanity outside the spa. Her bored mother (veteran actress Ildiko Bansagi) sets false fire alarms that lead to coffee and cake with the firemen. Her brother is convinced that people are being inhabited by aliens vulnerable only to water. Two gay cops struggle to reconcile their generational differences as they train for the SWAT competition in Orlando. The family friend predicts deaths in the family and shops for used sex toys, while her daughter anxiously tests her baby's breathing with a tissue on a regular basis. In short, people are in a panic, in and out of asylums, but not about international relations, global warming, energy shortages, or financial collapse. Rather, they are paralyzed by fears of the most personal, the most mundane, and the most ordinary concerns as they live soap opera lives.
Till's editing creates the most wonderful and witty juxtapositions, exploiting the alternate narration strategy to its fullest, sometimes cutting not only from scene to scene but also from genre to genre and between fantasy and reality, with scenes just seconds in length complete with their corresponding and appropriate soundtrack and musical background. Rather than confusing, this pace is exhilarating and absolutely coherent. His transitions are equally clever, spinning from a barrel bottom to a mixer, from brick to a painting above a bed, from a tilted photo to a slanted fantasy representing a panic attack. On a practical level, given our financially challenged time, he inserts himself in a cameo, a la Hitchcock, as an MC pitching a product in a mall and suggests a new career for unemployed writers with the role of Alex, who is hired by a man to do the actual breaking up with a girl friend. As the ex-lover explains, in a crisis, one needs a professional to speak for you.
This is a truly droll film, lovingly teasing all of us who have been deceived by the magic of film to live our lives as if they being projected on the silver screen for an audience's approval.
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