Despite the political and economic factors which have blighted its film industry over the decades, Hungary has always been a powerhouse of Eastern European cinema. Since the dawn of the twentieth century, the country has produced a number of notable personalities who’ve had a huge influence on domestic and world cinema. However, most of its national output is little known outside of that part of the continent. With Hungarian Masters, Second Run have pulled together three film which deserve more exposure. All of which have been restored by the Hungarian Film Archive.
Zoltán Fábri’s romantic drama has many elements which will be familiar, but delves into the socio-political currents of Hungary at the time. Set in a rural community, the daughter (Mari Töröcsik) of one of the local farming collective’s committee falls for a young worker (Imre Soós), but she has already been betrothed to a powerful man. Töröcsik is effervescent in her feature debut and this beautifully shot tale plays out to the backdrop of poverty and strife.
A group of friends spend an idyllic summer enjoying the end of their adolescence and awaiting their entry into adulthood with excitement. While swimming, they notice that Gabi (János Harkányi) has gone missing. A frantic search ensues. You can see the shadow of István Gaál’s film on much of Eastern European cinema which followed. It’s an existential drama where carefree fun turns to bitter introspection.
Agnus Dei (Égi bárány)
The 1919 Hungarian revolution is brought theatrically to life in Miklós Jancsó’s sweeping historical tale. Authenticity is replaced by symbolism. A fanatical priest (József Madaras) is spared by the revolutionary army. He responds by spearheading massacres, but is one form of repression destined to be replaced by another? Agnus Dei is a strange and sometimes difficult film, for western eyes and ears particularly, but one with moments of great craft.
Hungarian Masters is released on Blu-ray by Second Run on 13 December.