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PROFESSOR HANNIBAL

Hungary, 1956 (MIFF 1958, Programme 33)

Director: Zoltan Fabri

Professor Hannibal, a teacher at a secondary school lives with his wife and four daughters in a tortuous little street somewhere in the oldest quarter of Budapest. He is a modest and timid man, beset by domestic worries, but love of scholarship makes him happy.

There comes a time when a man must stand firm and uphold the truth as he sees it. That, briefly, is the decision made by the hero of this story, who finds himself at the centre of a political storm roused by the publication of an essay he has written on Hannibal and the history of the Roman Empire. Chased and hounded by a vicious mob, his will falters momentarily and he makes a halting speech of recantation . . . but an even greater tragedy follows.

Despite its being set in the Fascist era of the early I930's, Zoltan Fabri's bitter attack on the evils of the authoritarian mind have an equal relevance today. Like certain other young contemporary filmmakers, he sometimes weakens his argument by a fondness for bizarre effects which leads him into exploiting virtuosity for its own sake. But Fabri's passion is strong and the film's best scenes have an undeniable impact &ndash: his depiction of the mob and the controllers of mass persuasion, symbolized here by a group of political opportunists, give the film the quality of a modern parable. And its moral is one that none of us can afford to ignore.

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