On Body And Soul (2018)

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Directed by Ildikó Enyedi
Country: Hungary

Ildikó Enyedi is perhaps the most reliable female director from Hungary working today. She was awarded best director by the Hungarian film critics awards with “Simon, The Magician” in 1999, and won the Golden Camera prize at Cannes with “My Twentieth Century” in 1989.

The abstruse arthouse drama “On Body and Soul”, her first feature in 18 years, has been collecting accolades in festivals worldwide. Besides the nomination for Best Foreign Language film by the Academy, the film conquered Berlin, winning the coveted Golden Berlin Bear in addition to the FIPRESCI Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

Ms. Enyedi, teaming up with cinematographer Máté Herbai for crispy clear images, adopted that sort of weirdness that slowly conquers you. This unconventional love story starts to unfold in a slaughterhouse located in the outskirts of Budapest, thus, it's not those sweet tales painted in pink. Instead, there are heartbreaking moments of loneliness, situations filled with embarrassment, discomfort, disillusionment, and despair. Apart from this, one can also find hope in love. 

The lovebirds here are Endre (Géza Morcsányi), the attentive financial director of the slaughterhouse, and the newly-arrived quality inspector, Maria (Alexandra Borbély), a stiff, often unresponsive, and mechanic person who has trouble interacting with people. Maria becomes Endre’s protégé, even after marking high-quality meat with a grade B just for a tiny bit of extra fat. The curious thing is that both of them are already in love with each other, but they just don’t know yet. As soul mates, they have the same dream every night. In their subconscious, they are deers wandering in the snowy woods and looking for a water stream to drink and rub their noses. 

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This baffling aspect is only discovered during an investigation conducted by the petulant Klára (Réka Tenki), a police psychologist who thinks they have agreed previously on telling the same dream. In the meantime, we find that Endre slept with his co-worker’s wife and that Maria, in all her innocence, continues to visit the psychologist of her childhood. Feeling both insecure and curious, she wants to make the right step and learn right away the art of love, but through observation, which includes peeking at couples kissing and watching hardcore pornography.

Even without transcending in many fronts, the film has in Ms. Borbély its great stimulus. Those final disturbing images, when despondency and weakness penetrate into her soul, are indolently agonizing.

Yet, don’t let the sluggish pace discourage you, and enjoy both the dark humor and the uncanny vibes of a tortuous Hungarian romance marked by strong dualities: the physical and the spiritual, life and death, the real and the dream. Don't worry, in the end, everything becomes lucid.

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Son of Saul (2015)

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Directed by László Nemes
Country: Hungary

It wasn’t by chance that “Son of Saul”, a brooding drama set in Auschwitz in 1944, won the Gand Prix at Cannes and was considered the best foreign language film both in the 88th Academy Awards and Golden Globes. 
Skillfully, the debutant Hungarian director, László Nemes, who co-wrote with Clara Royer, conjures up a great story taken from an exhausted topic, imbuing it with a disconcerting vision, an adroit narrative articulation, and a fresh approach that automatically confers him the title of very distinctive.

The story, showcasing a relentless psychological strength and a feverish search for humaneness in times of insult and negligence of human values, focuses on Saul Auslander (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian Jew who works at the most famous Nazi extermination camp as a Sonderkommando member. The ones who belong to this group, also known as “bearers of secrets”, were in charge of conducting their fellow Jews to the gas chambers, cleaning the nauseating mess afterwards, and ultimately burning the dead bodies. 
One day, Saul decides to bury the body of a young boy who, miraculously, was still breathing when he was taken out of the gas chamber. Inevitably, the boy succumbs, but from that moment on, Saul takes him as his own son. A burial procedure is not allowed under any circumstances, and the obsessed Saul, well identified by the big red X on the back of his coat, will need the cooperation of a few mates as well as of the doctor who should proceed with the autopsy, to carry on with his intent. He also needs to guarantee the presence of a rabbi to make sure the proper words will be said.
 
By approaching the convenient persons, one by one, Saul fiercely sticks to this noble idea, searching for some dignity in a place where there’s no dignity at all. He seems impelled by a superior force he cannot control, exposing himself to a few perilous situations as he conveys all the personal victories and frustrations to the viewer. This could be achieved thanks to Mr. Röhrig’s outstanding performance, an asset to the extraordinary direction of Mr. Nemes, who draws an afflictive, inebriating effect from the agitated yet well-planned handheld camera. His filmmaking style – the film was shot at a close range from the subject, with the camera often placed behind his back - makes us see everything through the eyes of a man who can’t be stopped no more, even knowing that death is his most probable destiny.

“Son of Saul” is an uncomfortable drama, built in an almost delirious way. It’s not an easy watch, especially when you start to believe that it’s going to take you somewhere righteous, and minutes later you realize that darkness will take over and win the battle. I wasn’t expecting anything cheerful, and still its inconsolable paths struck me as a lightning bolt.
It’s a golden debut for Mr. Nemes, who engendered a new visual and narrative perspective to sturdily relaunch the Holocaust theme. One thing I can assure you: this film is like nothing you have seen before.

Liza the Fox-Fairy (2015)

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Directed by Karoly Meszaros
Country: Hungary

Freshly arrived from Hungary, the comedic “Liza the Fox-Fairy” provides some fetching moments by resorting to a mix of kitsch and screwball techniques, while boasting a gorgeous 70’s look. 

The surreal, humorous tale leads us to Liza (Monika Balsai), a nice-looking nurse who takes care of Marta Tanaka, a wealthy widow of an influent Japanese personality, whose obesity doesn’t let her get out of the bed. The unmarried Liza, who desperately seeks love, reveals her strong tendency for pop-culture – not only hamburgers make her happy, but also reading cheap Japanese novels in its original language, which she learned from Ms. Tanaka. She’s also prone to connect with ghosts and the most obvious case is Tomy Tani (David Sakurai), a long-dead Japanese pop star who frequently appears at the Tanakas and develops an alarming affinity with her. 
Suddenly, and giving continuity to the film’s initial segment in which Liza, accused of several deaths, is interrogated by the police and states she’s a fox-fairy, we learn that not only she’s innocent but also that a book was the cause of her mutability and curse. The book discloses a grim tale in which the women who are turned into a fox-fairy become forever deprived of love, doomed to live in a desolated forest where usually they end up taking their own lives. It seems this is exactly the malediction that’s hampering Liza from reaching true love. 
The deaths of her multiple eccentric wooers happen one after another, and Liza automatically becomes the main suspect since she was always next to them when the tragedies occurred. The only man capable of untangling the truth is Sergeant Zoltan (Szabolcs Bede Fazekas), a meticulous detective assigned to follow her everywhere and collect the evidence that would put her behind the bars for many years. 

This utterly kinky pastiche, directed and co-written by debutant Karoly Meszaros, is narrated in a complacent manner and moves swiftly, carrying out vivid tones while branding influences of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, as well as the archetypal Asian comedies. The film grants us some diversion, demanding its place among those well-disposed comedies from the past. On the other hand, not everything works fine because originality is not its strength, and the score teases us due to its interminable repetition. Not bad for a first work, though.

White God (2014)

White God (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kornel Mundruczo
Country: Hungary / others

Movie Review: After a spectacular opening scene where filmmaker Kornel Mundruczo shoots hundreds of dogs frantically running throughout the streets of Budapest, I immediately thought: maybe I didn’t read appropriately the film's title - was it 'White Dog' or ‘White God’? Actually, I was expecting something different here; according to its title, probably something more austere and masterful, but surprisingly the film stands in the middle of an affecting family adventure and a slightly gory thriller. A dangerous position since it may be too light to please horror-thriller fans and too violent to be watched with family, especially if you have little kids. The story has two protagonists: the 13-year-old trumpet player, Lily, and her cute mixed-breed dog, Hagen. When Lily’s mother leaves the city for a few days in the company of her new boyfriend, she is forced to stay with her picky father, Daniel. Lily takes the inseparable Hagen with her, but Daniel dumps the poor dog into the wild streets. While the sad Lily steps into risky situations and starts misbehaving as she looks around for her best friend, Hagen tries to avoid the dog-catchers of the municipal kennel, but eventually falls in the hands of rascals, being subjected to maltreatment and then turned into a fighter, for their own profit. As a dog lover, knowing that there are people out there inflicting this kind of treatment to innocent animals, gives me the creeps and really pisses me off. These moments were the ones touching me more since the rest relies on a farfetched canine feast of rambunctious chases, tenacious attacks, and emotive incidents. Production and direction are splendid, yet the script is not tight enough (no bad guy escapes to the dogs’ fury, not even Daniel’s snitch neighbor). In the end, the positive factors ended up obfuscating the negative ones.

The Notebook (2013)

The Notebook (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Janos Szasz
Country: Hungary / others

Movie Review: “The Notebook”, Crystal Globe winner at Karlovy Vary film festival, is a grim tale of survival based on the first part of Agota Kristof’s war trilogy, published in 1986. Set in 1944 Hungary, the story follows two inseparable twins who learned how to survive when they were left in a countryside farm at the care of their hostile grandmother, in order to escape the horrors of WWII. The bitter old woman, accused of having poisoned her husband, was constantly punishing the boys with no reason. The artful twins, focused in staying strong and keep on studying as their parents recommended, started training their bodies to endure pain, cold, and hunger. During these harsh times, they become friends with a strange Nazi officer, and with a retarded thief girl who lives next door. Some powerful scenes remain in our heads, like when the twins meet an insensitive anti-Jew woman who takes an erotic bath with them, or when they drag the prostrated grandmother through the snowy fields. However, other situations are a bit strained, particularly when trying to accentuate the boys’ determination (the fight with their mother’s new man didn’t convince) or their abrupt changing in the relationship with grandma. With sharp images composing the expressive cinematography by Christian Berger (Michael Haneke’s regular choice) and a mysterious score that sets an intriguing atmosphere, “The Notebook” is an interesting psychological study that evinces pure darkness hidden behind naive faces. A good time is guaranteed, despite the less successful aspects mentioned above.

The Door (2012)

Directed by: Istvan Szabo
Country: Hungary

Plot: This is a story of a special relationship between two women.
Review: Based on semi-autobiographical writings by Hungarian Magda Szabó (1917-2007), “The Door” didn’t enchant, but didn’t disappoint me also. The plot concerns the odd relationship developed by a young woman-writer and her maid. After “The Queen”(2006), Helen Mirren has another superb performance, being the key element for maintaining the movie in acceptable levels. The main characters conveyed affection and care for each other without being slushy, but I didn’t feel much intensity or enthusiasm in the story, maybe because it was too straightforward in its narrative and didn’t give us enough time to absorb some details. Easy watching, though.
Relevant awards: -

The Turin Horse (2011)

Realizado por: Béla Tarr
País: Hungria
Não é nada fácil entrar no universo do mestre húngaro Béla Tarr, mas uma vez entrando, nunca mais conseguimos sair ou esquecer as magníficas imagens a preto-e-branco que conseguem falar por si próprias. Este é um filme repetitivo e duro de assistir, assim como é dura e repetitiva a vida das suas personagens. Baseado num evento registado em 1889 protagonizado pelo filósofo alemão Nietzsche, Tarr dá asas à imaginação, criando um filme sobre a morte. Um pai e uma filha tentam tudo para sobreviver, após o seu cavalo, único meio de subsistência, adoecer. Consegue fazer-nos suspirar de angústia e desconforto, com o "fim do mundo" para estas personagens a ser encarado com tristeza e resignação.