It's hard to imagine, however, that even the most easily distracted viewers won't be struck by the director's uncanny knack for imbuing a number of everyday objects-seashells, light switches-with an air of queasy, blind menace.
By Andrew Right
After the Day Before
Hungary, 2004 (119 min.)
Dir. Attila Janisch
Of the various moods available to a filmmaker, creeping, nightmarish paranoia can be one of the most difficult to sustain; often, all it takes is a single crumple of a neighboring popcorn bag to break the spell and bring on the tension-relieving guffaws. At the press screening for SIFF Emerging Master Attila Janisch's After the Day Before, one of the reels was mistakenly played upside down, and the mood not only sustained, but the gaff actually enhanced the film's skittery, unclean vibe. This, clearly, is some powerful juju.
Set in the bleak Hungarian countryside, András Forgách's screenplay follows a dour funeral photographer as he pushes his rusty, uncooperative motorized bicycle on a quest for a farm he inherited from a distant relative. Shortly after arriving in the neighboring town, he is informed of the brutal murder of a previously glimpsed resident, discovers a few unaccountable scratches on his person, and his private quicksand just gets deeper and deeper. Working with just the barest whiff of black humor, the director imbues his chronologically skewed narrative with enough spare hints throughout to support a variety of hypotheses. Gabor Medvigy's exceptional photography, seemingly capable of capturing the slightest disturbance of a single blade of grass from a distance, only enhances the surreally hyper-alert, bad-dreamy feel.
Certainly, Janisch's assured combination of deliberately glacial pacing and short, jarring shocks won't be for everyone (119 minutes is a long time for one's nerves to be continually jangled, after all). It's hard to imagine, however, that even the most easily distracted viewers won't be struck by the director's uncanny knack for imbuing a number of everyday objects-seashells, light switches-with an air of queasy, blind menace. Without resorting to backward-talking clowns or razor-wielding bogeymen, he successfully brings on the night sweats, over and over again. (ANDREW WRIGHT)