Monday, March 7, 2011


The first film from Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi, who has gone on to make some of the most interesting films I've ever seen, Taxidermia and I Am Not Your Friend, a catalog of ordinary events with a sinister undercurrent. It begins with an old man hiccuping, and the old man sitting outside almost serves as a cornerstone to other residents of the town passing by.
The exaggeration of the mundane is interesting at times, with some fascinating shots, like the man's hiccups creaking his bench, revealing the ants crawling underneath, or a woman in black standing behind a farming couple, which turns out to be innocent, but the old woman's black clothing and how she stands give the scene an initially sinister cast. Another interesting scene has a panorama of the fields, which break into filmstrips, showing the photo negatives that a town resident has taken. Like Taxidermia highlighted the violence of vomiting, Hukkle shows the grinding of tires into the ground and the shaking of milk jars on carts as almost violent, through closeups. But the mundane can be, well, mundane, especially when stretched out into 78 minutes. This may have worked better as a short film, with more impact.
The first appearance of policeman is standing in a field, and initially nothing is thought of it. Then he's seen visiting various houses, clearly conducting questioning, although no dialogue is heard. The questioning scenes are treated as just another scene from the day, and as the camera pans to a fishing scene, the camera goes under the water to find a dead body. There are two funeral scenes, adding to the dark tone.
The attention to small details becomes clear as the detective is looking at a photo of a picnic setup, with seemingly nothing to do with any murder. Detectives have to observe the most mundane, seemingly unimportant details, just as the viewer has done. However, it's still unclear what everything in the film has to do with any murder, as is a bizarre scene that breaks the overall calm of the film, with no clear reason.
As Palfi's first movie, it hardly stands up to his later great works, but it shows his promise as a filmmaker. And one of his central themes is clear from this debut: in his later films, it's almost taken for granted that people do terrible things to themselves and each other. Violence, physical and psychological, is seen as an inevitable part of the human experience. In this overview of a day in the life of a small Hungarian village, a murder and the subsequent investigation are just part of the scenery.

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