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AT MIDNIGHT

Hungary, 1957 (MIFF 1959, Programme 14)

Director: G. Revesz

On the New Year's Eve of 1956, prior to executing their plan of action, an artist couple, actor and ballerina, are burning old pictures. The memories of their love story are evoked &ndash: a tense and passionate love, endangered by the October revolution which broke out during their honeymoon at Lake Balaton, Hungary. With the decision already behind them, they relive the hope and hysteria, the arguments for and against leaving the country, and that moment of crisis becomes vital once more. Framing this emotional conflict is lovely Budapest, dream city of many pre-war travellers &ndash: which was their home and the background to their love and success. Starring Eva Ruttkay, and her real-life husband Miklos Gabor, At Midnight is based on an actual incident (in fact the true Viki is rumoured to be in Australia).

Some neat visual and aural transitions, careful planning, and a breathtaking tempo distinguish this film &ndash: perhaps at the expense of characterization and analysis, but catching the atmosphere of "now or never", and the high-pressure style of living in European art circles. Most remarkable, however, is an almost completely detached observation of that period of chaos and frenzy; of the indecision, expediency, and temporizing which followed the crushing of the revolution, when moral and political re-evaluations became the order of the day.

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