In 1919, Hungarian Communists aid the Bolsheviks' defeat of Czarists, the Whites. Near the Volga, a monastery and a field hospital are held by one side then the other. Captives are executed... See full summary »
Miklós Jancsó's Silence and Cry is set during a turbulent era of disquiet, fear, persecution and terror, which permeates every corner of post-WWI Hungarian society. In 1919, after just a ... See full summary »
In Hungary, the national movement led by Kossuth has been crushed and the Austrian hegemony re-established, but partisans carry on with violent actions. In order to root out the guerilla, ... See full summary »
In the final days of WWII, a seventeen-year-old boy wanders the countryside. He is captured by Soviet troops, then released, then captured once more - after he has donned a German uniform ... See full summary »
It is 1947; the Communist Party has just taken power in Hungary. In Jancsó's first color film, young students at a People's College have a debate with seminary students, but worry it will escalate into a fight.
This film follows an antisocial working-class husband and father struggling to find work in the Midwest. As the film progresses, it seems that he has little actual interest in supporting ... See full summary »
During WW2 Hungarian resistance hides a married couple from the officials. The woman is sent to act as the wife of one of the resistance members who is also in hiding and pretending to be somebody else. They slowly begin to fall in love.
I consider the discussion about art to be a meaningless waste of energy, so I will let others sort out whether this is 'great art' or not. Whether or not this is a cinematic triumph against plot and character though, as championed by many, will invariably depend on your definition of cinematic. It does not meet mine, at least my definition of richly cinematic worth leaving the mind behind.
Here's the setup: it is apparently the 1890's, the place is a stretch of Hungarian plains rolling in the distance. A village of farmers has gone into a strike, with a battle being fought over their soul and minds. Now and then newcomers emerge from nowhere, young intellectuals who give spirited lectures on Engels and socialist theory, priests with their sermons and rites, soldiers of some distant , oppressive authority.
The people are by turns confused and spirited, bold and despairing. They lash out against each other, burn a church. They pray and hold court. Now and then they sing and dance about their woes, stabbing who they see as more privileged. Soldiers swell their revolutionary ranks, then break out and shoot them. It all happens in circles in that same featureless plain.
The allegory is stark, what the Czech had been for years leveling against Nazis: covert attack on the hypocrisy and tyranny of a distant state, by celebrating betrayed hopes and idealism.
That's all fine, but for one factor.
We see a lot of upheaval, a lot of pain turned into song. But we are not tethered into human soul for any of it. We never know any of these people except schematically, as actors on a stage. A disembodied camera liturgically roams and roams around these faces, but we have no entry into the soft underbelly of actual lives.
It is a matter of presentation. In The Red and the White, Jancso solved this by first ushering us into a world at war, with stakes and limits, with blood coursing through people. So when he abstracted, we were moved the right distance away from the aimless bloodspill to view a more cosmic grind.
Here the abstraction is all done before we get there. The abstract world is already in place and does not transform again; the sparse setting, the visitations, recitations and ceremonies. You don't make the jump to an ecstatic view, and it has to be you.
So the effect is like being taken to a room where people are calmly sitting with eyes closed and told this solemn air that you see is meditation. How do you know they're not sleeping?
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