It’s been ages since I’ve been to the pictures. I generally catch up on what’s playing when I’m on a plane or when the DVD goes on sale. I’d forgotten how much I used to enjoy it. When I was living in Oxford, I had a membership card with the local arts cinema and saw everything that they showed. Likewise in Chichester. It’s a habit that I’ve gotten out of and one that I need to get back into again.
For weeks now some of my friends here in Budapest have been banging on about a low-budget Hungarian film – For some inexplicable reason – that is so good, people actually applaud at the end. No one really explained what it was about so I went tonight on recommendations alone.
Written and directed by Gabor Reisz (a first movie for him), it’s nothing shy of brilliant. A review in the Hollywood Reporter describes it as an ‘unpolished debut’ but if this is unpolished, then Hollywood can keep its sheen.
Aron (Aron Ferenczik) has just turned 29. An unemployed film history graduate, he’s floundering in a world that wants him to wear a shirt and conform. His girlfriend, Eszter (Juli Jakab) has dumped him, taking everything with her. She took her hairs from the drain and left me, he tells us. How could you not fall for a man who would even notice they were missing?
Seeing Budapest on screen, the pubs and places I go to, the trams I take, the streets I cross, was all a little surreal. Seeing the family dynamics in action was hilarious (Zsolt Kovacs is brilliant as his dad). Seeing his friends in all their normalcy was compelling. This is a movie about life – it doesn’t require any great imagination and far from transporting me into a world of fiction and fantasy, it was like getting a peak at a reality from a rather clever perspective.
And it gave me something to think about. Aron’s fixation with a childhood incident at school where his friends stood by and watched him get beaten up was an uncomfortable reminder of some of the grudges (thankfully they are few) that I hold. On my way home, I made a conscious decision to let them go. That was worth the ticket price alone.
His bumbling confession to Eva Ink (Kata Bach), a ticket controller he meets on the tram and tracks down to ask out was endearing. She thought him mad. I thought him fabulous and wished, not for the first time, that there were more men like him the world.
His blithering rant at the young one he picks up one night should be mandatory watching for anyone coming of age – it was certainly a shout-out to the sisters.
Aron isn’t a drinker but pushed to the limit he goes on a binge and wakes up the next morning having bought a ticket to Lisbon (sort of puts anything I’ve ever done in the shade). He goes. And he comes back. And somewhere in the interim he makes his peace with the world.
My friend KT asked me afterwards if it was a universal theme or one that was uniquely Hungarian. Would it travel, she wondered? Variety reports that the World Sales Rights have been bought by a Paris outfit. And Reisz himself has said:
Only if we create something meaningful, that has a relatable story, can we have a better chance of exporting our film in and beyond our borders.
It’s universal. It’ll travel. It’s a film worth watching. And one worth buying to watch again. It’s on my shopping list.
[How come I didn’t know about the great Hungarian jewelry design shop in Művész? Shame on me. ]