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BUDAPEST TALES

Hungary, 1976 (MIFF 1980, István Szabó Retrospective)

Director: István Szabó

"The next two films are free of lead actors and are about constellations within the group. In 25 Fireman's Street, the house is the star; in Budapest Tales, the trolley car. 25 Fireman's Street tells the tale of a house being demolished and as the house crumbles, a century of Hungarian history unfolds.

Szabo sketched his original conception of this intricate film: 'One night, an entire household of people has the same dream, and in that night, they love each other, hate, betray, reconcile themselves. It is this common dream that unites them, although they have always lived in the house. They are in the attic, the cellar; there are layers of people in this house and, on this one night, they come together for a universal dream, but the next morning, when they awaken, nobody can be sure that life is the same. Yet they all act as if everything is normal, and don't believe that all the others shared their dream.'

Behind Szabo's statement, there seems to lie an additional need to air out socialism: first, to explore the social injustices that dogged Hungarian history, typified by the class struggle and the manipulation, if not oppression, of women; secondly, to explore the basis of the social contract; and thirdly, to portray history as a dream, or nightmare, come true.

The old house is wrecked and removed, but the historical dream is not so easily destroyed. The only form in which historical and political realism is minimal is folklore. So it was in this form that Szabo cast his next film.

The trolley car in Budapest Tales could be considered the star of a film whose plotless progression is a ritual of social reconstruction. The theme is also present in Miklos Jancso's work: in the wake of social devastation, we witness the anarchy of psychologically and physically isolated individuals approaching one another tentatively. In their sense of loss and being lost, their emotions have the impact of being prototypes of human sorrow, joy, love, hate, loyalty and betrayal. Szabo proposes that fear is one of the most powerful binding agents of a group, for toward the end of the journey, after hanging together through thick and thin, it is still the recognition and confession of each man's fear that unites and overjoys them again."

See also...

25, FIREMAN’S STREET

This film, by Hungarian director Istvan Szabo, won the major prize at the 1974 Locarno festival. As the title might indicate, the film deals with the inhabitants of an apartment building in Budapest ... More »

THE AGE OF DAYDREAMING

Istvan Szabo's short film You was shown in the 1964 Melbourne Film Festival and it indicated the arrival of a new talent in Hungarian cinema. Szabó is only 26, and in this, his first feature film ... More »

FATHER

"In 1966 he made Father about a boy's search for his dead father. A warm, tolerant humour is immediately visible in this film which developed into a gentle irony over Szabo's next ten years (a humour ... More »

Concert

Left on the embankment of the Danube, a piano becomes the centre of interest for the lunchtime crowd in Budapest. ... More »

Danube, Fish, Birds

The river Danube dominates the city of Bupdapest. Istvan Szabo, whose latest film. Love Film, was shown in the 1971 Melbourne Film Festival, creates a little fantasy of elements connected with the ... More »

You

This a love poem to a young girl of Budapest . It discovers the beauty in every movement of the beloved, holds and eternalizes her passing smile, finds her everywhere, follows her moods. ... More »

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