István, a király

[Screenshot][Screenshot]A couple disclaimers: first, I watched this without subtitles, and with only a minimal plot outline; second, the recording of the 1984 movie I watched was a pretty crummy copy; to make up for it, I also watched a much crisper (and actually better artistically) recording of a 2003 open-air performance in Csiksomlyó. The music is excellent and stylistically diverse, although they make the common mistake of reusing old tunes for later plot events, so by Act 4 virtually everything’s a reprise. As for the performance issues, the movie and live performance were sufficiently different that they might need to be addressed individually. The movie was rather overfond of flashy effects, or what passed for flashy in 80s Hungary, which involved irritating quantities of slo-mo and stop-motion. Add that to the generally degraded quality of the print I was watching, and it was hard to get much nuance off of the characters. The Csiksomlyó performance, on the other hand, had a lot going for it in terms of character nuance, which surprisingly came down unflatteringly on the ostensible heroes: István seems indecisive and easily manipulated, and Sarolt just a tyrant. Oh, and in both versions the hordes of priests are pretty intimidating, so the overall effect is, to say the least, not exactly pro-Catholic.

I’d definitely recommend the Csiksomlyó performance, and even the movie if you can find a clean print, but I’m imagining the whole tihng’s a lot more enjoyable if you can find subtitles (I’m actually working on some, just for the hell of it, but it’s slow work for someone who doesn’t know Hungarian).

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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

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