Film, Drama

Time Out says

Some terrible urban disaster has occurred. The injured are rushed to hospital, a mass of labyrinthine corridors, rundown, dimly lit. A doctor sarcastically asks blowsy nurses puffing at fags whether they’re bored. The soundtrack chugs with stabbing chords. Revealing that it’s all an exercise manned by volunteers, a medic sings out, ‘Emergency over!’ – and sings is the word.

From now on, all dialogue is sung. Kornél Mundruczó’s film is an opera. It’s also – allegedly – a retelling of the passion of Joan of Arc. Johanna (Osolya Tóth), a young drug addict, becomes a nurse in the Kafkaesque hospital and hits on a novel method of healing: sleeping with patients. This apparently works for everything, including liver complaints. The patients unsurprisingly approve and, rather more startlingly, consider her a saint. Nasty nurses are jealous; the young head doctor loves her but her rejection sparks a chain events leading to civil war between patients and staff and fleeting philosophising about God and creation.

Zsófia Tallér’s music veers between the lyrical and the declamatory, with a military flavour for the choruses of Johanna’s fans and foes. The language alternates between ethereal (‘Don’t follow me – I am made of crystal’) and prosaic (‘Let’s run to the urology!’), both baffling. The moral is punched home with Brechtian directness: ‘Think twice if you want to be good… Better to be a murderer than a saint.’ The cinematography of Mátyás Erdély and András Nagy creates a nightmare subterranean world whose images linger after the sound and the (not very furious) fury have died away.

By: Martin Hoyle



Release details

Release date:
Friday September 29 2006
83 mins

Cast and crew

Kornél Mundruczó
Kornél Mundruczó, Yvette Biro, Viktória Petrányi
Orsolya Tóth
Ildikó Cserna
Istvan Ganter
Dénes Gulyás
Zsolt Trill
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