Dir: Istvan Szabo. Hungary. 2006. 110mins

After 12 years making films with stronginternational flavour, Istvan Szabo is back home for an adaptation of acritically-acclaimed novel by Zsigmund Moricz about an ambitious but naiveidealist who is sucked in by corruption.

A Hungarian picture made for Hungarianaudiences, this darkly ironic cautionary tale resonates with contemporaryrelevance. Although its heavy reliance on dialogue may hinder internationalsales, Szabo's name, the lavish camerawork of cinematographer Lajos Koltai andthe cast which includes some of the top Hungarian names will provide plenty offestival dates.

Voters in a provincial Hungarian town electIstvan Kopjass (Csanyi) to the post of attorney general. The young idealist isperfect; he satisfies the townfolk's desire for a corrupt-free local governorwhile the town's powerbrokers see him as an easily-manipulated puppet.

Istvan's intention to make a clean sweep ofthings hit two obstacles. First, the city's largest employer, the pig breedingfactory, wants to protects its own interests. Second, he is torn by loyalty tohis numerous relatives who all suddenly pop up seeking favours. His wife's(Ildiko Toth) warnings are ignored, not least because he gets seduced both bythe chance to climb socially and by the elegant charms of a local lady of means(Erika Marozsan). When he finally catches on to the fact that he is nothingmore than a patsy, it is far too late to make amends.

Though made on a very tight budget, this isa handsome production, from the pristine images from cinematographer Koltaithrough to exquisitely chosen costumes and sets.

As well as depicting a flawed social order,where everything has a price and everyone is for sale, Szabo stresses theparticular nature of corruption in the context of the Central Europeanmentality, both past and present.

Some of the performances including Csanyiin the lead and Karoly Eperjes as the villain of the piece are stilted as theystruggle to remain faithful to the original material. On the other hand, Toth,veteran Russian actor Oleg Tabakov as the Mayor and Czech director Jiri Menzelin a cameo as a smooth municipal operator, are a delight to watch.

Production companies
Objektiv FilmStudio, ISL Films, TV2

Hungarian distribution

Janos Rosza

Istvan Szabo, Andrea Veszits

Lajos Koltai

Zsuzsa Csakany

Production design
Zsolt Khell

Hot Jazz Band

Main cast
Sandor Csanyi
Ildiko Toth
Oleg Tabakov
Karoly Eperjes
Erika Marozsan
Csaba Pindroch
Ferenc Kallai
Piroska Molnar
Jiri Menzel
Jozsef Szarvas