Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Red Psalm [1972]

Miklós Jancsó’s Red Psalm remains a fascinating work in his oeuvre on account of its terrific blend of socialistic themes and rich experimentation with form. By invoking a tragic peasant revolt that occurred in 1890 and providing allusions to 19th century Hungarian history in general, he managed to lace the film with strong Leftist leanings and rich commentaries on class struggle. Allegories and symbolisms, too, were made effective use of in order to drive home its theme, voice and context. But, contrary to what one might presume, this was anything but a dry film. Rather, Jancsó imbued it with an almost operatic feel through infusion of a gregarious style not very common in the language of political cinema. He filled it with a plethora of fabulous songs – mostly folk-based and on the themes of injustice and revolution. The rousing, melancholic songs, on one hand, kept the tempo exuberantly high despite long moments of quiet observation of the various characters, while on the other, beautifully complemented its theme and spirit. Set completely at a single locale, it showed a protesting group of poor farmers almost always ominously surrounded by the army which keeps inflicting violence on them at regular intervals. Jancso filmed the movie through bravura long takes – the entire film comprised of just 28 shots – wherein gently roving tracking shots were used to give one a sense of being there in person, slowly walking across the field and quietly observing the events. Lush colours and sensuous female form further added to its emotional vibrancy. The film, in fact, heavily reminded me of some of Angelopoulos’ works on account of its theme, tone and particularly stylistic choices.

Director: Miklós Jancsó
Genre: Drama/Political Drama/Musical/Avant-Garde
Language: Hungarian
Country: Hungary


Sam Juliano said...

Yep, Jansco is a stylist Shubhajit, and RED PSALM is a wholly metaphorical, mush like the director's masterpiece THE ROUND-UP.

Fabulous review!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. I especially loved his using the musical, albeit not in the classical sense, in conveying the searing political commentary.