Suffused with melancholy, lyrical, poetic and full of folk-feeling, decked with haunting choral singing and merry-go-roundish dance, Zoltán Fábri’s Hungarian Romeo and Juliet, Körhinta, has just become one of the movies of my dreams. Based on a short story, “Kútban,” by Imre Sarkadi (“In the Well” is its English title), this film claims a quintessential theme for historical Hungary: separation. Whatever the outcome, Fábri’s black-and-white classic (Barnabás Hegyi cinematographed) teases the heart in the direction of a lost romantic connection. Will there be rescue, a happy ending?
In a village, István Pataki has withdrawn from the farming co-operative and wants back his land; he also wants his 18-year-old daughter, Mari (Mari Töröcsik, enchanting, leaping to stardom), to tear Máté, a co-operative member, out of her heart in favor of his own choice to marry her, Sándor, who also has left the co-operative. Mari’s separation from her Máté parallels her father’s separation from his land; but she tempts fate by dancing with Máté at a wedding celebration, worrying her mother, inflaming her father and her fiancé.
The opening, dazzling and kinetic, is immersed in carnival as Mari and Máté fall in love with one another on a carousel; excited humanity projects her stirred feelings once Mari is off the carousel. When István drags off his daughter, her balloon rises into the sky—a shot attuned to her subjectivity—as she disappears into the crowd—a shot attuned to ours. Thus Fábri implicates us in his heroine’s fate.
Love, it turns out, does not suit politics; it has its own imperatives. Meta-text steps into the mix: although coming after the time that the film covers, the 1956 Hungarian Uprising that the Soviet military crushed. Hungarians existed in shadow, separated from land ownership, self-determination and, sometimes, their natural affections.
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