International Success

By 1963 an overall pattern had emerged under which directors were allowed considerable latitude in subject matter and style, provided they did not directly challenge the government's authority and steered clear of controversial treatment of the 1956 revolution. Although the finest films of this period were rarely box office successes within Hungary, the government promoted and supported them for the cultural prestige they earned abroad, especially at major film festivals, and also out of a genuine respect for their artistry. They were adequately funded, and comparatively few films were banned; the most notorious example, the satire on 1950s bureaucracy, A Tanue (The Witness, Pater Bacso,

1969), was finally released ten years later.

The films of this period fall mainly into two groups: the so-called parables, which took some historical incident from Hungary's past and interpreted it so that it had clear affinities with the present day, and films set in the present, which offered cautious criticism of the gulf between official rhetoric and the often grim realities of Hungarian life. One way or another, almost all the major films had a political as well as a private dimension, as in the early, semiautobiographical films of Istvan Szabo (b. 1938), such as Almodozasok kora (The Age of Daydreaming, also known as Age of Illusions, 1964) and Apa (Father, 1966), which the director himself described as ''the autobiography of a generation.''

The strongest international impact in the 1960s was made by Miklos Jancso (b. 1921). Films like Szegenylegenyek (The Round-Up, 1965), Csillagosok, kato-nak (The Red and the White, 1967), and Meg ker a nep (Red Psalm, 1971), while often dealing with obscure incidents from Hungarian history, fascinated audiences elsewhere with their direct presentation of political oppression and brutality, the stark black-and-white photography of the earlier films, and the sinuously balletic, lengthy camera movements of the later ones. Istvan Gaal's (b. 1933) powerful Magasiskola (The Falcons,

1970) provided a more abstract, less historically specific allegory of the totalitarian mentality. The theme of collectivization—the forced transfer of individual peasant ownership of the land to collective farming—was handled with intelligence and objectivity by Saandor Sara (b. 1933) in Feldobott ko (The Upthrown Stone, 1969) and, in visually spectacular but more ambiguous fashion, by Ferenc Kosa (b. 1937) in Tizezer nap (Ten Thousand Days, 1967). Karoly Makk's Szerelem (Love,

1971) dealt movingly with the return home of a political prisoner in the early 1950s, while Hideg napok (Cold Days, Andras Kovacs, 1966) tackled head-on one of the most shameful Hungarian actions in World War II, the massacre of hundreds of Serb civilians by Hungarian soldiers in what is now Novi Sad.

A reorganization of production and loosened bureaucratic control in the 1970s brought new themes and approaches. The so-called Budapest School combined the revived interest in documentary with a fictional

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment