Dir. Benedek Flieghauf. Hungary. 2003. 95mins.

With a First Film award and the Gene Moskovitz prize at the Hungarian Film Week and a slot in the Berlin Forum, Benedek Flieghauf's debut feature looks set to be a regular on this year's festival circuit. Rough, gritty, quite plotless and using non-professional actors throughout, Flieghauf still draws a consistency in style from his Euros 8,000 budget, a redefinition of the term shoestring budget if there ever was one. Certainly the film, with its assortment of characters and their hang-ups, is sufficiently distinct enough to command arthouse programming, although it is likely to be rebuffed by the commercial market as too tough a nut to handle.

A throwback to the early days of the celebrated Budapest school, when the likes of Gyorgy Feher (to who the film is dedicated) remorselessly drilled their cameras into the depths of their characters, Benedek Flieghauf presents a series of loosely linked encounters, focussing on subjects picked up in a master shot as they walk through a busy mall. They include a man who tells two girls that they have to adopt his dog before he immolates himself; an pregnant woman who fears she is about to become like her despotic grandmother; and a father exasperated and fascinated at his teen daughter's burgeoning sexuality.

Flieghauf shot the film in tight close-ups, using long, uninterrupted takes in which the camera frequently pans from one face to another instead of cutting, for fear of losing the intensity of the set-up. Despite, or possibly because, of this the results are amazing, with the performers identifying themselves completely with their parts. The opening shot is repeated at the end, but the faces in the crowd now have a new dimension, and it is here that the Forest takes its title. The audience first see the human forest, then get to know the individual trees in it, then look again - and it is not quite the same.

Prod co/int'l sales: Inforg Studio
Int'l sales: Mokep Co/Hungarofilm Division
Prods: Andras Muhi
Benedek Flieghauf
Zoltan Invasi
Lili Fodor
Raptors Kollectiva
Main cast:
Barbara Csonka, Katalin Voros, Peter Pfennig, Barbara Thurzo