Simon le mage

[Screenshot]Simon le mage (or Simon mágus as it is sometimes called; international collaborations often seem to have two titles in different languages) is a difficult movie, and one that feels a bit like it belongs in a different age. Were it not for the peculiarly modern opening soundtrack (Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, incongruously enough), I would quite reasonably have presumed this film was contemporary with, say,Tarkovsky’s Solaris, which it rather resembles aesthetically. It plays some of the same tricks of pacing and cinematography as Solaris, with wide grand panoramas with an underlying feeling of staticity, and also an unusually long and dull view from the window of a vehicle. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually care for Solaris that much, and Simon possesses its aesthetic without its feeling of mystery. Enyedi tries to infuse the story with a sense of the mysterious, but somehow it all seems nonsensical instead. The resurrection contest is of course the center of the plot, making the other elements seem entirely irrelevant, and more like loose ends than mysteries. As one example, we learn in one scene that Simon’s interpreter has been in disguise, but the fact that she was, and her reasons for being so, are never again mentioned. Most of the story is like this, leaving me to my impression that the entire film may be at a level that I am simply not getting. It is beautifully composed, as mentioned above: even as a deliberate homage, imitating Tarkovsky’s cinematography is no mean feat. Some of the effect is spoiled by the rather imperfect transfer, but that I expect from Hungarian cinematic releases in the US (even when in collaboration with a more prosperous mation, alas). On the subject of the two participating natons, a point of some dissatisfaction: it’s fairly significant when people are speaking Hungarian and when they’re speaking French (particularly in the absurd café scene, conducted entirely in French despite Simon’s complete ignorance of the language), but the subtitles don’t differentiate. Anyone with an ear for European languages can figure it out, but I’d still have liked to see a typeface or color distinction made.

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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