Szerelmem, Elektra

[Screenshot]Miklós Jancsó is apparently one of the great traditional Hungarian directors. I’m outside the culture looking in, so I just saw individual films and only later patched them together. Certain stylitic elements of this film reminded me a bit of his earlier, better-regarded Szegénylegények, and, irrationally, of some of Kurosawa’s cinematic framings. The scenery is sparse; horses and horsemen play a strong part, and this gives a very strong impression of the puszta, or at least of the ideal of what the puszta once was. But get past the backdrop and the window-dressing, and what we have is kind of odd. It’s not quite the Elektra myth, but between the conventions of Greek tragic theatre and a story not wholly unike Elektra, it looks like the right story if you squint at it hard enough. The story, honestly, is not what this one’s about, to put it bluntly. It runs a bit iff of the mark of the original story, and near the end gets bogged down, somewhat political, and really very weird and not in the way encouraging you to puzzle it out.

What you should bring home from this one is ritual and cinematic framing, ultimately. A static landscape becoems a ferment of activity, rituals of peasant men and women akin to a dance, sweeping around our central characters, who go unheeding of the commotion around them. With respect to those main characters, only the title character really stands out: Mari Töröcsik rally stands out from a crowd, defiant, angry, and, in this context at elast, ugly. We get a sense of determined isolation and grief before she even speaks. She emotes well, at least with body language.

So, even though this film gets a bit bogged-down and slow near the end, I recommend it for the visual spectacle. That’s actually a shame, because it gets the usual Hungarian cinema treatment in Region 1: crappy interlace, 4:3 aspect ratio, burned-in subtitles. Yes, I’ve said that before, and, yes, I will continue to bitch about it. Especially when it’s ruining a film so reliant on effective visuals.

See also: IMDB.

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

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