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DIARY FOR MY CHILDREN

Hungary, 1982 (MIFF 1985)

Director: Marta Meszaros

Diary For My Children is very possibly Marta Meszaros' best film; it is certainly her most personal work since the short documentary, Binding Sentiments, which she made about her father in 1969. In 1931 the sculptor LaszIo Meszaros decided to leave Hungary and go to the Soviet Union for several years to do research. He took his family with him. But in 1938 he was arrested at Frunze, in Kirghizistan, and never heard of again.

Marta Meszaros says of Diary, "I wanted to show the positive aspects of such a man, how this young girl sees her father and the man who later takes his place - a man who is frank, sincere, simple and open."

Juli, the protagonist of the film, returns to Hungary in 1947 from the Soviet Union (Meszaros herself returned briefly in 1946), where she had been taken as a child, and where her sculptor father perished in the purges. She is taken in by a family caught up in the conflicts and corruption of the Stalinist years. In particular she comes into confrontation with the neurotic matriarch of this family, an embittered woman willing to sacrifice anything to her Party career.

Juli misses her parents and hates school, which she frequently bypasses to spend her time at the cinema. Finally, she finds solace in her friendship with the chief engineer of a large factory, a friend of the older woman now in charge of her upbringing. But this growing new friendship intensifies the alienation between the two women. The Stalinist purges have now reached Hungary and history begins to repeat itself; and the engineer, to whom Juli has been attracted because of his resemblance to her father, is an early victim.

This is a courageous film, brilliantly mixing dramatic reconstruction with old newsreels to present a startling portrait of an adolescent caught up in the darkest days of Eastern Europe's history. Significantly, its release was delayed for almost two years.

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