From one of the foremost woman directors comes a personal story of how history and the individual impact each other. A young woman (Juli) returns to her homeland only to find the horrors she escaped have infected it also.
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This is the second film, DIARY FOR MY LOVES, aka DIARY FOR MY LOVED ONES (sometimes, apparently mistakenly, translated DIARY FOR MY LOVERS, which is misleading, as there are no lovers of Juli in this film), in the series of four autobiographical Diary films written and directed by Marta Meszaros. It follows DIARY FOR MY CHILDREN (1984), aka NAPLO GYERMEKEIMNEK. See my review of the first one listed by IMDb under the Hungarian title, though a search of the English title will also bring it up (it is the only review of it on IMDb). Only that first film in the series is available with English subtitles today, from Second Run DVD with English subtitles and with French subtitles (in France the film is called JOURNAL INTIME). This second film takes the story up to 1956, and covers the death of Stalin at great length, with much fascinating newsreel footage. The film commences with a few scenes from the first film in black and white, and the rest of the film is in colour except for the newsreel sections and some contemporary footage cleverly inserted into the newsreel footage by Meszaros in black and white to match the newsreels so that her actors appear to be alive and participating in the events of that time. The same main actors appear in this film as in the first, the amazing girl Juli played again by Zsuzsa Czinkoczi, Janos played again Jan Nowicki (who was Meszaros's husband), and Magda Egri, the foster mother of Juli, played by Anna Polony. All the performances are again spectacular, as in the first film. The action takes place both in Hungary and Moscow. The famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who became an intimate friend of Meszaros, is portrayed in the film by Irina Kuberskaya/Kouberskaya. Juli's other best friend in Moscow, where she studies filmmaking, is a young acting student named Natasha, played by the beautiful Adel Kovats, known for her bewitching eyes, which Meszaros knows how to highlight with good effect. She reappears in the third film in the series, DIARY FOR MY MOTHER AND FATHER (1990, to be reviewed). This series of Diary films by Meszaros is a monumental achievement in world cinema, because we get powerful and eerily authentic history lessons side by side with the most intimate personal stories, tragedies, ironies, loves, hates, and horrors. It is difficult to think of any other series of films like it. It has an emotional power similar to that of Satyajit Ray's famous trilogy THE WORLD OF APU, which follows the same characters through three films, but Ray's trilogy was fiction, whereas the four films by Meszaros are based on her own life story as it evolved within the contexts of national and international politics and events of high drama. This film is as riveting as its predecessor, and shows Meszaros's struggles against the hideous bureaucracy and stifling official propaganda of her time. She struggles continuously to get her friend Janos out of prison, to which he had been unjustly confined by her foster mother, who is a Party fanatic, and she tries to find out what happened to her father, who was taken away in 1938 and never heard of again. She finally discovers that, as a result of the liberalising of the Krushchev Era that followed the death of Stalin, her father has been 'rehabilitated'. She is thrilled to hear this from the bureaucrat who informs her of it and hands her a certificate of rehabilitation (which also frees her of course from being an enemy of people because she is a daughter of a supposed enemy of the people). She then asks him, full of joyful expectations: 'Where is he?' He replies without a shadow of sympathy, and in a matter-of-fact manner: 'He's dead.' In fact, he had died in March of 1945, 21 years before. Reeling with shock at this news, she is perfunctorily told how to find her way out. Such is the heartlessness of 'the System' that deals systematically in death-by-whim. She had already been told by someone who met her father in the Gulag that he had been repeatedly tortured. So he has been rehabilitated, a dead man rehabilitated, which is supposed to make it all OK. The film is a devastating but understated and subtle condemnation of the unspeakable evils of Stalinism and human cruelty in general. There are plenty of wicked informers who casually condemn whole families to death upon spurious charges, simply in order to ingratiate themselves with the oppressive regime. Under any tyranny, the worst of human nature readily comes out in many people. These films are not only studies in human emotions and tragedies, but in human evil and corruption, and how it extends to and rots from within individuals who should be 'normal' but who are transformed into monsters without even knowing that it is happening to them. They justify it by saying that they are being loyal to a Party or a system. Above all, however, these films are the story of the life of a girl who only wants to live and to create freely, but who comes across a lifetime of obstacles in a world gone mad and a society gone to rot. Both films have many touching scenes where she takes refuge in cinemas as an alternative reality where she can escape the horrors of her life. She then desires to create films herself by becoming that rare thing, a female film director. These films are the story of the birth of a major cinematic genius against all the odds. They are a story of courage, but also of the most intense sadness.
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