Dir: Zoltan Kamondi. Hungary. 2002. 88mins.
Hungary is back after a long absence in the Berlinale competition with an entry that attempts to cover as many of the burning Magyar issues of the hour as its 88 minutes running time will allow. So many, in fact - from generation gap to future options for the youth, from gypsy magic to hi-tech witchcraft, from the wonders of the new economy to its victims - that it sometimes browses through rather than deals with them. That said, there is no doubt about Zoltan Kamondi's gifts as a distinctively personal director, with a flair for both visuals and working with actors. Its qualities are bound to secure it a solid festival career with potential arthouse interest.
Anna (Juli Basti), an independent woman and a successful bank executive, has a 19-year-old son, Marci (Marcell Miklos), she has brought up on her own. A bright kid who is in line for a Cambridge scholarship, he is also a computer wiz who twists bank systems around his little finger, but what bothers him most is the identity of his biological father, which Anna refuses to divulge, and his mother's boyfriend, a rich, hypocritical and obnoxious technocrat.
Only by threatening to leave home, does he squeeze the secret out of her but when he finally tracks him down, living in a isolated farmhouse, his genitor turns out to be a hard, embittered man up to his neck in manure and debt. Hoping to know more about him, Marci pretends to ask for work and is sent to peel onions and put them in boxes. Selling three of the boxes to wandering gypsies, Marci finds himself to be the new owner of a 10-year-old girl, Juli (Julianna Kovacs), who sets out to seduce him on the spot.
Of all the various themes he tackles, Karmondi seems most comfortable treating Marci's confrontation with the three women in his life, his mother and her smothering, possessive affection, his girlfriend and her over-sexed temperament, and the gypsy girl who will not share him with any other female.
Frequently using hand-held camera in a documentary way, he often goes into huge dramatic close-ups and inserts into the black-and-white narrative, which he sees as objective reality, a number of colour sequences (subjective reality). His experience in the theatre is evident in remarkable performances, particularly from veteran Juli Basti and child prodigy Julianna Kovacs. When it comes to knitting together a script combine all of the topics he touches on, Karmondi is less fortunate, for the arbitrariness of his subplots sometimes distract rather than support his main goals.
Prod co: Nextreme Film, Honeymood Films, Human Media 2000, Fivinvest
Int'l sales: Nextreme Film
Prod: Gyorgy Budai
Scr: Zoltan Kamondi
Cinematography: Gabor Medvigy
Ed: Zsuzsa Posan
Main cast: Marcell Miklos, Julianna Kovacs, Juli Basti, Janos Derszi, Zoltan Seress