Sunday, 30 March 2014

25 Fireman's Street [1973]

In Budapest Tales Szabo had used a train bogey and a group of travelers to present a marvelous sociopolitical allegory. In 25 Fireman’s Street he did that with the help of a crumbling building block. Even if it wasn’t as powerful or as eminently watchable as the former, the metaphors were nonetheless potent. It provided an incisive chronicle for dark times of Nazi-occupied Hungary and the equally bleak post-War Soviet Bloc years, through the imposing but dilapidated apartment complex and its bunch of tragic, idiosyncratic residents, further stressed through the infusion of surrealism. The residents of the house located at the titular address in Budapest are regular folks – their physiological and psychological ailments, bouts of loneliness, moments of love and heartbreak, fears, grief, hopes, loss, the desire for physical touch, and so forth, provided an intensely personal portrayal of the ensemble cast. However, it never became just a collection of personal tales, as the outside turmoils added both drama and rich context to the story – political affiliations made some turn into active or passive partisans, some into lunatics, and others flee at the first opportunity, divisiveness led to conflicts, and hiding of people and stuff from the secret police was a regular feature (various fellow-residents requesting one of the ladies to validate on paper that they never revealed that she hid someone close to her, and, at the end, she requesting people to return the stuff she’d kept with them, made for poignant moments). The narrative style, however, didn’t make for easy viewing – it regularly jumped back and forth across time, often veered between dreams and reality, and never provided easy answers or explanations.

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


Sam Juliano said...

I've seen MEPHISTO and other exceptional Szabo films, but not this one yet Shubhajit. I again applaud you on an extraordinarily intricate review that clearly makes a fervent plea to see it.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Sam. Interestingly this was my 5th tryst with Szabo (Bizalom, Apa, Budapest Tales & Lovefilm being the others, in the order that I'd watched them), and yet I haven't seen Mephisto thus far, possibly his most internationally recognized work. Need to correct that anomaly soon.