Szerelmesfilm: More Midcareer Szabó

[Screenshot]This film bears a striking likeness to Szabó’s next film, Tűzoltó utca 25.. It too has something of a muddled time-disjointedness and obsession with late-20th-century Hungarian history (particularly World War II and the following Soviet occupation). Somehow, this made a lot more sense than its followup did, perhaps because the age of the protagonists, and their interaction with eachother, formed a better focus for a story made of cascading flashbacks than the seemingly unrelated events at a house. So the sense of history and of coherence is a lot stronger, and it’s a much better film, but it’s definitely weak in some ways. One problem is the lack of any real conflict. We get a hundred vignettes in the life of these lovers, and a long stretch near the end where they sound out their true feelings for each other, but at no point in the story is there any dramatic tension. It’s a series of things just happening. I liked the historical sense, and some of the vignettes were amusing or poignant, but the movie as a whole didn’t feel like it came together as such. I kind of prefer the straightforward drama of early Szabó (for instance, Apa, which sticks to a specific dramatic point) or the grand sweeping historical epic of late Szabó (e.g. Sunshine).

Final points: burned-in subtitles. Why do American releases of Hungarian cinema do this to us? Not that I typically watch Hungarian film unsubtitled, but, y’know, subtitles are a separate track for a reason. Also, the childhood apartment of Jancsi and Kata is Tűzoltó utca 19. I’d never heard of Tűzoltó utca before this film, so I looked it up. Good reason I’d never been there—it’s in southern Pest, rather further than I ever had reason to go. Not a terrific neighborhood, but fram what I’m given to understand, not a terrible one either. Dunno what it signifies to István Szabó though.

See also: IMDB.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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