Mundruczoâ€™s film is his 3rd and treats of manâ€™s attempts to get back to nature and simplifying his existence,following his heart rather than social conventions coming up against the ugliness of human nature and social taboos. Young hirsute man Mihail(Lajko) returns with his wealth from the city after many years to his village and gets a cold reception from his mother and her new husband(his father has died) but a welcome from his half-sister(Toth) who he didnâ€™t know existed. There is no room for him to live there so he decides to set up home in an old shed of his fatherâ€™s in the Danube Delta, a labyrinth of waterways,small islands, wild vegetation, marshes, where the villagers are cut off from the outside world. He is joined by Fain who doesnâ€™t get on with her step-father.He brutally rapes her,this filmed in long shot to avoid any sense of titillation. She is nursed back to health by her brother and a tenderness develops between the siblings,contrasting with the brutal rape. However his return to his motherâ€™s pub to get drinks and fill his bottles is like a scene out of Straw Dogs as all the villagers sullenly stare at him,disapproving of his closeness to his sister.They soon respond to his money and he is able to purchase logs of wood to build his dream home on stilts with a pier crossing the water. He is helped out by an uncle who still disapproves of his arrangements.Nearing completion and by now slipping into incest(again shot obliquely).There is a poverty of characterisation, Mihail is impassive,always looking down through his long hair,few words are spoken. The building of the house and pier is impressive with lots of banging, knocking, lifting and cutting, which melts in with the chorus offrogs,birds, insects and the running of water. Edrdelyiâ€™s camera provides a hymn to nature in all its glory, with majestic sunrises and sunsets,beautiful impressionistic cloud formations,distant vistas of water and sky. The aesthetics of lyrical scenes somewhat blinds us to the darkness in paradise coming through the lush pattern of natural sounds and the soundtrack of Schubert,Gounod and Lajkoâ€™s violin which is stunning. All this beauty is the backdrop for a Greek tragedy as they play host to the villagers a paroxysm of envious,hateful anger erupts. What was unsatisfactory was any attempt to confront the morality of the characters in any depth,a lack of narrative momentum, a lack of information and interactive dialogue and motivation. We get a feeling that human life is transitory, nature eternal; man can harmonise with nature or his bigotry and fundamentalism can destroy it and all the ideals it inspires.The tortoise swims off at the end as if to show the resilience of nature.A film for the fests.Perhaps the brother and sister are to be taken as emblems of nature.
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Posted: Tue May 5 2009Don’t be fooled by the sublime surface beauty of this dour, impenetrable drama from Hungarian Kornél Mundruczó, as this is a film that glides along on the strength of shots and scenes rather than ideas and plausibility. An introspective, hirsute man returns to his mother, who is married to another man. There’s no room in the house, so he elopes with his spindly sister and together they begin the arduous task of constructing a new dwelling in the middle of the Danube. As the bond between the pair becomes too strong to suppress, the scruffy, brandy-swilling locals (who look like they’ve been drafted in from a Béla Tarr movie) become wary of the couple’s odd endeavour. Mundruczó generates a moderate amount of intrigue from the build-up but stubbornly resists handling his themes in any direct and digestible fashion. Instead he opts for oblique plotting and portentous (often biblical) imagery to drag his film across the finishing line.
Author: David Jenkins
Beautiful to look at, but lacking the necessary narrative drive to draw the viewer into the story, this film is eventually a disappointment. Some of the images would look great on the wall in a gallery, but this is a film whose purpose should be to engage. It is impossible to relate to the central characters and in the end one does not really care what happens to them. viewer