Monday 2 September 2013

Budapest Tales [1976]

Istvan Szabo’s brilliant and ingeniously conceptualized, crafted and constructed Budapest Tales was a richly allegorical road movie, filled with layered, thought-provoking, humanistic and wryly ironic commentary on Hungarian socio-politics, birth and growth of any socialistic enterprise, and life itself with its incessant crests and troughs. A dilapidated tram, randomly parked on a river bank that a few individuals discover by chance and instinctively decide to put it back on track and make use of it for their journey to Budapest, formed the film’s elemental chord. As the rapidly expanding group, comprising of people from diverse social classes, push the tram, during and over an unspecified timeframe, through varying terrains, external hostility and internal turbulence, long stretches of ennui interspersed by moments of both elation and devastation, kindness and cruelty, love and heartbreak, courage and cowardice, wisdom and stupidity, power struggles and reconcialiation, continuity and change, and so much more, the destination, a metaphor for the elusive promised land, became secondary to the journey itself. It becomes such an integral part of all their lives that, when faced with a river in their path, they disassemble all its parts and meticulously assemble them on the other side. The tram here is thus a symbol for their collective hopes, dreams, accomplishments and disillusionments. The way the founders of the journey eventually got side-tracked, and even discarded, while others passively watch, reminded me a lot of Orwell’s Animal Farm. Imbued with a washed-out look and an introspective tone, and comprising of excellent turns by the hand-picked ensemble cast, this was a quintessentially East European film, albeit with a universal feel and a highly personal statement.

Director: Istvan Szabo
Genre: Drama/Political Drama/Road Movie/Ensemble Film
Language: Hungarian
Country: Hungary

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