Lê Mỹ B. Attila
Coordinator of Vietnamese-Hungarian Culture Club
Regional director of AGA – Ahead Global Association
As a short introduction we should draw a distinction between “films for the mass”/”junk movies” and “art movies”. The first one was the beginning of the movie in Hollywood, whereas “art movies” belong to Europe. The category of “junk movies” is easier to understand, it works by universal thoughts and signs/symbols: almost any kind of audience can understand it. The society of the US is a mixed/heterogeneous one: plenty of nations represent themselves and as a new world around the beginning of the 20thKing-Kong story comparing with the Italian Antonioni’s The Night. The second movie itself – even though it has no literary base – is a silent and symbolic movie about deep human problems: you need more knowledge about the environment which the movie takes place in – a big city and its special atmosphere, full with meaningful pictures and symbols of the black and white technology of art shooting. All of these knowledge and experiences we don’t need while enjoying King-Kong. century there is no common history, no common culture there and they didn’t care about the ancient local cultures so much. The film works by many dynamic movements and actions, almost no need for (high-) educated cultural background. European movies – Spanish, Italian, Russian, etc. – originally usually had some literary background: a piece of play from theatre, a famous novel or a poem etc.: the audience needs a certain stable background knowledge to be able to enjoy/understand the motion pictures. One takes the
Hungarian movies are originally closer to the entertainer type. Hollywood became famous and successful also by Hungarians: Mr. Adolph Zukor (Paramount Pictures) built the filming studio system in Hollywood in the 1910’s. He was the producer of Popeye and Gulliver’s adventuresMy fair Lady, Philadelphia story, and Gaslight with Ingmar Bergman (Oscar prizes). Everybody knows the Dracula story: the most famous Dracula was played by Mr. Lugosi Béla. The story itself comes from Transylvania where those time most of the people were Hungarian native speakers. Mr. Michael Curtis’s (Kertész Mihály) biggest movie is Casablanca. If one checks the selection in Hanoi DVD stores this classical movie still can be found on the shelves. Others, such as Ms. Gabor Zsa Zsa is well known. When she was 16, she won the national beauty competition in Hungary then she went to the US and became a famous actress. Cameraman Mr. Zsigmond Vilmos - The deer hunter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg, Oscar prize) – later came back to Hungary and became a teacher of cameramen. Mr. Andrew Vajna is a famous producer, his works are the Terminator I-III, Rambo I-III, Basic Instinct (with Sharon Stone) etc. (cartoons). Mr. George Czukor (Czukor György) directed
Leaving the Hungarian big period of “art films” such as Mephisto or The Paul street boys, the products of the beginning of the 21-th century arrived with young and really up-to-date directors. The new generation is less the prisoner of Central Europe mentioning style and technical solutions. The fact of the “Opened World”/Globalisation brought the postmodern experience to everybody. Hungary is a small country with a population of 10 million but open minded and colorful enough to have a wide range of movies – different generations and many subcultures live together – which is the general feature of the European countries.
Lacking of enough space let us check two movies that recently have had international attention and respect and – an important point of view – which are also available in Vietnam nowadays.
The District! (dir. Mr. Gauder Aron, 2004) is a partly 3D cartoon with semi-realistic faces, a very dynamic street movie with kids and street wars between two gangs. This is not a didactic piece at all. One can even feel that the director himself also comes from that special district of Budapest which is a mixture of different cultures (gypsies, Chinese, Arabic etc.), a heterogeneous and very busy area. The audience will face the big European cities’ “fashionable” problems such as different minorities’ everyday argues, poverty and crime etc. through strong humor and absurd twists. The style of the cartoon is so impressive that the music sounds as a street hip-hop black music – when The District! was first released the criticism and the audience fall in love with it at first sight.
The semi-realistic style concerns not only the characters’ faces but the whole environment and background, one who is familiar with this special district of the Hungarian capital – which is not a must – can recognize well known buildings, the trams and other objects. The fresh and powerful way of story-telling is not polite at all and the philosophy of the characters is just one value system which may not be similar with ours: “if we have money enough we can have The Woman”. The main character’s thoughts about love on a bench in the very near of a dog’s waste product – thanks to the genial camera angel – is a rude but very meaningful essence of some subcultures’ philosophy about life - the life that should be better as we can see on the screen with rude but humorous wakening demand.
The Investigator (dir. Mr. Gigor Attila, 2008) is a thriller featuring a main character with a weird behaviour, among others referring to Aki Kaurismaki’s protagonists: a man growing up without the Father, without any interesting experiences and private life. At the beginning our main character, Malkav who is a dissector – having a symbolic profession – becomes a murderer to be able to treat his mother out from cancer. But he realizes that the man who he executed was his unknown brother. The story has relation with an archetype of the European literature: Oedipus the King. But the meta-killer’s (the murderer of murderers) way is opposite and not tragic. While Oedipus ‘goes out from life’ our Malkav starts to find himself, he starts to build his life by the help and warm assistance of Edit, a solid archetype of “the Woman”. The crime against a human being and in general against the moral and human rules has a long story and representation in the European literature from the Greek times. The Investigator is one of the (post-) modern pieces of the experience that moral and classical (religious) traditions have even more complicated relation with reality, or from opposite point of view: reality and our everyday experiences don’t understand any more the teaching of classical moralist education.
Extreme ends of the Hungarian film
Mr. Tarr Béla – among the world’s best directors (The Guardian)
While his Werckmeister harmonies (2000 – a black and white story in a Hungarian small town) was an absolutely appreciated movie both by the audience and critics. Satan’s Tango was made earlier, in 1994 but has become well known in the age of DVD’s only. Satan’s Tango seems to be really far from the pop culture’s taste and interest but this movie raised Tarr Béla’s international reputation. Susan Sontag, The New York Times, The Guardian, Kinoeye etc. highly appreciated this weird product which is more than 7 hours long. Usually they greeted some political/world criticism in the film besides the great camerawork and compositions. From the other hand a movie should be “screenable” and enjoyable for everyday audience too. The situation is similar with Tarkovsky’s films: big, international reputation but there is only a few people who watch these products in deed, usually inside the walls of the profession such as art institutes. This is a high-end of shooting with long takes, for example at the beginning of Satan’s Tango we can watch a herd of cows walking across an empty landscape – it takes 7 minutes.
Low budget films
This special category sometimes needs local knowledge of Hungary and/or the language structure. Important and meaningful pieces were made by Mr. Végh Zsolt, Mr. Kálmánchelyi Zoltán (Pest-fabule: The Wizard of Oz; God@heaven.hu etc.), Mr. Kamondi Zoltan (Video portraits), Mr. Hegedűs Márton (Jjazzz, Marksman, etc.), Mr. M. Tóth Géza (Maestro) among many great young artist. Even though Hungary is a small country and the population is only around 10 million, the number of film products is uncountable. Even a normal length movie can be made from low budget such as Mr. Martin Csaba’s Beating stones (2010). One of the essences of this entity is that enjoyable and meaningful piece of works can always be made if there is creativity and strong will. Financing of filming is always a big problem everywhere, more and more young directors appear with different educational background and there are several groups and associations defending their rights and demanding the state film foundations, the financial base for their scripts.
The documentary movies and the postmodern experience
Famous traditional documentary makers such as Mr. Almási Tamás, Mr. Litauszki János etc. have to face the postmodern criticism of the non-existence of the genre of the documentary movies. More exactly the genre can exist but since the structure of the ‘original’ society has been changed and the big narratives such as strong influence of religion, the ‘followable hero’, the faith in human’s smartness etc. partly disappeared and according to the western experiences the documentary movie has lost its theoretical base. There is another question as well - specially considering postmodern experiences – whether the documentary movie genre has ever existed: Nanook of the North (1922) by Robert Flaherty was a nice piece of directed movie with amateur actors in deed. The camera itself changes and modifies the reality around it, the ‘reality’ which should be seen on the screen is a point of view only: the director’ interpretation about the theme which was chosen to shoot. The director in this situation is a strict person with a special demand and usually with preconception. The documentary movie is a big effort of the trial to remove and erase all tracks which prove there is a certain relation between the actors and the film staff. And we have not yet mentioned applying sound effects, music, mastering and mixing – the studio works after shooting: originally all of these tools were used for the good reason – but a) finally these are tools for manipulating our feelings; b) according to the postmodern multicultural experience most of the case the truth is relative and partial and a) + b) lead to ethical questions: can the director encroach the reality that would be shot, even with her/his simple and passive existing? Is it the reality that we can see on the screen or is it some new entity which has some feature in weird relation with reality? Whose world and thought can be seen on the screen: the actor’s one or the director’s one?
Few of the old school documentary makers still have not realized the consequence of these questions but the rest started to make really good documentaries with postmodern knowledge.
Mr. Szirmai Márton directed The sinking village (A süllyedő falu, 2008) which is a fresh and progressive documentary about a small village’s everyday fight against the natural forces: the villagers’ houses are sinking, walls are cracking and nobody can stop the dreadful situation. Szirmai avoids the manipulations sharing the technical background of shooting with the audience and what is more he did it with a great humor which concerns the actors and also the way of story-telling. All that means the director knows he should not be in charge on the actors – or: on people who appear on the screen. An other solution to express a more ethical and sometimes funny attitude is to involve the filmed people in the movie making such as give them the camera to shoot from their own point of view etc. Of course from the other hand it is also a game which always refers back to the experience of the interesting situation of the documentary film genre. One of the basic theoretical problems with the documentary movie that this genre’s directors usually want to make effort to prove that what the audience can see on the screen is reality. And “serving the noble reason” they ask the actors to behave in a certain way which fits their pre-concept. Later in the studio they can use other effects to make it “more real”. Szirmai knows that all and argues with it involving an actor to do a parallel shooting with his own camera-handling using his fake English knowledge. One of the keys to The sinking village is that this film knows itself, this film has a knowledge about its own barriers, has the knowledge of its power and responsibility melting all with an intellectual humor in all register.
Mr. Pálfi György found a nice way using documentary elements for his fiction movie. His film the Hiccup (Hukkle, 2002) became a popular production with loud international feedback – prizes from Paris, Hong Kong, Sochi etc. – and was also introduced at the Hanoi Cultural University in 2008. This solution does not want to persuade its audience that the movie is a real story. Nevertheless the cameraman’s beautiful macro shots about much natural phenomenon can also be the part of a documentary movie. The Cultural University’s student welcomed the Hiccup because of several reasons. First there was no language barrier at all because the movie uses visual language only. The landscape which is a random village somewhere in Hungary introduces familiar professions and the farmers’ way of life among their practical furniture and animals. Most of the beauty of this movie is the result of the professional camerawork by Mr. Pohárnok Gergely who uses green as dominant color. The documentary environment is the base of a story which turns into crimes: many husbands die during the beautiful natural pictures and we become the victims of some women’s conspiracy.
The Hungarian movie and the movie culture in general is a must and important segment of the national cultural activity. Every year besides the national movie festival, Budapest organizes the Titanic Film Festival which has become well known on international level. After his first Hungarian appearance in 2007 Vietnamese director Mr. Bui Thac Chuyen introduced a new movie titled Adrift (Choi voi) taking place in Hanoi which is still unknown and fabulous for the Hungarian audience.