1913, Budapest, in the heart of Europe. The young Irisz Leiter arrives in the Hungarian capital with high hopes to work as a milliner at the legendary hat store that belonged to her late parents. She is nonetheless sent away by the new owner, Oszkár Brill. While preparations are under way at the Leiter hat store, to host guests of uttermost importance, a man abruptly comes to Irisz, looking for a certain Kálmán Leiter. Refusing to leave the city, the young woman follows Kálmán's tracks, her only link to a lost past. Her quest brings her through the dark streets of Budapest, where only the Leiter hat store shines, into the turmoil of a civilization on the eve of its downfall.
Hungary's submission for the Foreign Language Film Award of the 91st Oscars. See more »
Few lines are heard of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, published in 1922, 12 years after the action. See more »
"I Don't Know"
The whole concept is intriguing, probably more than Son of Saul had back in the days as it was "just another holocaust movie" to experience, well that what I thought, probably many others, yet we got something totally unique in the end. But the theme of concentration camps were already told many times before, and often in painfully cheesy ways. A story about the begining of World War I, about its dawn holds more mysticism and freedom to be told, and after the Saul film I was really excited what Nemes had to tell us about that...
Well... it figures... not that much. All I could gather from the movie is that the team really loves their own narrative technique they used previously, and they just totally projected the sole storytelling language onto a theme where it kinda... mostly... backfired. The elements didn't glue themselves precisely, and they become a part of something that just smells really fishy. They probably thought copying their own concept is enough to keep the glory of Laszlo's artistic career, to make this whole language as an own brand, however it turns out to be underdeveloped and not that flexibly adaptable. And this howler created that specific something of which we might have heard many times in the history of movies: an Artsy Fartsy production.
It's a shame thought, because the images send you back right into that time of the 1910s, it lives in front of you... flesh and blood, the environment, the costumes, historical authenticity is excecuted top-notchly, the colors and compositions sometimes remind us about those avant-garde paintings made by pointilist/expressionist/impressionist artists, and on these factors the team cared to focus 100%.
What Laszlo, and his collaborate writers couldn't hold up to thought is the way a story like this should be told in order to it be realistic and believable. Because what's totally, laughably bad is the dialogue. The sentences these characters "exchange" are unrealistic, we would never encounter in such ever in our daily lives. And seeing the whole realism and authenticity before me I might wonder where this movie wants to be symbolistic/metaphoric and where it wants to be flesh and blood realistic... because these two dimensions just don't add up, barely maintain symbiotic relationship. Throughout the whole movie the summary of 70% dialogue is "well... I don't know" ... then the characters mostly stand there like ALL these words behold huge weight... EACH WORD... even thought these overall don't hold any meaning at all and they end up being fillers apparently.
Not to mention the begining of the movie is already nonsensical from realism standpoint; The Leiter girl tells the assisstants that she is there for the job ONLY after they tried several hats on her... like... what... she couldn't do that right at the moment she arrived to the building? So I guess we should have left the "realism" perspective right from the begining? Well okey, let's do that, but what should we gather then from this storytelling, when no one tells nothing essential 70% of the dialogue, and everyone is just acts unrealistic right at the moment when they have to interact with each other; they stare at each other, standing or sitting next to each other with 80% silence of total screentime... it becomes tedious and laughable reminding me of the acting pracice those no names do in a Barátok Közt episode.
So these problems are really apparent in the first half, the second half of the movie is getting more exciting and finally developing to somewhere, expressing its artistic, metaphoric language in a more adequate way. It gets darker, really atmospheric and foreshadowing, you can really feel the arrival of something dark and cold that could shatter all that fanciness and golden age of peace people believe to live in. The music, the sounds, the visuals work really well here, and all the tediousness and fishiness - that we got from the whole 2 and a half hour screening time - fall back a little, making the movie watchable till the end and leaving you with some satisfaction in some ways. But, again, the breaking the forth wall, staring at the whole audience with the eyes that tell you "YOU SEE? YOU SEE IT NOW? HEY! YOU SEE?" moment... well... it's just... really bad... because YES, for god sakes, we saw it, we watched the movie, you don't have to spoonfeed us.
So in the end, as I finished the movie, all I could feel as a conclusion from this all; well... "I don't know"
And that's... again... a shame, because the whole concept of the story that is being unfold on screen is depressingly beautiful; The rotten flashy surface being rusted by the ugliness it hides, and to that the Leiter siblings tell "No way, we shouldn't keep it on hold, release it, and let's face it, whatever is underneath!"
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