3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Few things ruffle an insular community’s feathers more than a stranger in town, and you wonder if the hero of this backwoods drama knows what’s in store when he ambles into a rural village off the Danube. Mihail (Lajk) shows up unannounced on his mother’s doorstep after a long absence; he’s introduced to a sister (Tth) he’s never met. The two siblings start restoring a dilapidated hut down by the river. Their closeness doesn’t sit well with Mom’s drunken lover (Gspr) or the local population of repressed yokels. Violence and tragedy are all but assured.

Taking a page—or rather, several chapters—from the Eastern European art-house playbook, Hungarian filmmaker Kornl Mundrucz works this stock tale into a deliberately paced parable of desire and dread. (An opening-credits shout-out to slow-and-low-cinema godhead Bla Tarr is a tip-off.) Scenes of unkempt nature are scored to ominous droning; a crawling turtle becomes a multilayered metaphor. Like Tarr, the young director can conjure an atmosphere of beauty and horror. Now Mundrucz just needs to learn not to overplay his hand: Staging a scene of violation in a distant long shot is effectively nightmarish; punctuating it with a close-up of its aftermath splattered on the victim’s thigh is simply vulgar.—David Fear

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Cast and crew

Kornél Mundruczó
Kornél Mundruczó
Orsi Tóth
Félix Lajkó
Sándor Gáspár
Lili Monori

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