Sunday, 5 September 2010

Polish And Hungarian Movies

We caught up with a couple more Second Run dvds of Central European movies, both Cannes Special Jury prizewinners: the Polish Mother Joan Of The Angels (d. Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1961) and the Hungarian Diary For My Children (d. Márta Mészáros, 1984). What else do these have in common, apart from their powerful originality, terrific B&W photography and excellent acting? Well, they're both about ideology and dogma : religious superstition and sexual repression in the former film, political corruption and state control in the latter. Of course both directors therefore incurred suspicion and criticism within their respective countries, losing work and opportunities as a result. Both were married to actors and directors, after training at film schools; progressing from editing and writing scripts to direction, they became highly professional and original filmmakers.

Based loosely on the French 1634 Loudun 'possession' case, MJOTA is appropriately intense and claustrophobic and far more worthwhile than the often risible Ken Russell flick from the 1970s. Kawalerowicz died in his eighties, a few years ago, and is now largely forgotten, his other films currently out of circulation. Mészáros's Diary is highly autobiographical, and has been called "an unusually graphic picture of Hungarian political, cultural and social life in the late 1940s". Both films, dealing as they do with eras 300 years apart, offer grim yet convincing, almost coldly-observed perspectives on gullibility and fanaticism. Not feelgood entertainment by any means, but still very relevant and provocative today. (Think Papal visits, holy hypocrisy, personality cults, self-serving memoirs by corrupt politicians, etc!)

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