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Johanna, a miracle according to Mundruczó (Cineuropa)

Johanna, a miracle according to Mundruczó (Cineuropa)

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A few days before the final award ceremonies in Cannes, the Cineuropa reporters present on the Croisette agree to say that the most original, fascinating, and daring film of the festival is definitely Johanna by Kornél Mundruczó, the Hungarian director who, at the age of thirty, can already boast another great feature before this one, Pleasant Days (Silver Leopard 2002 in Locarno).
May 18, 2005

 

A few days before the final award ceremonies in Cannes, the Cineuropa reporters present on the Croisette agree to say that the most original, fascinating, and daring film of the festival is definitely Johanna by Kornél Mundruczó, the Hungarian director who, at the age of thirty, can already boast another great feature before this one, Pleasant Days (Silver Leopard 2002 in Locarno).

This film, produced by Viktòria Petrànyi (who also co-wrote the script) for Proton, Béla Tarr for T.T. Filmmühely, and co-produced by Philippe Bober (The Co-production Office) and Mokép RT, was initially a short film (2003) based on the story of Joan of Arc, a highly cinematic character, interesting to deal with but very challenging, since quite a few great directors have already used her story (Carl Theodor Dreyer, Robert Bresson, Roberto Rossellini, Victor Fleming, Jacques Rivette, and, more recently, Luc Besson).

However, Kornél Mundruczó proved so skillful as to avoid all pitfalls and depict this famous character in an unexpected and absolutely fantastic way. His heroin is a modern Joan of Arc, a junky addicted to morphine who falls into a coma after an accident. At the hospital, her doctors miraculously manage to bring her back to life; from then on, she decides to live a true ‘passion’, which will eventually lead to her tragic death. Indeed, she starts trying to help the other patients, especially the most serious ones whom she cures by offering them her body. The medical team, offended by her miraculous gift, end up killing her and burning her with the hospital’s rubbish. Is this a social satire? A witty way of turning a tragedy into something entertaining? What is most striking in this movie is the fact that it is a musical, entirely sung from the beginning to the end, like a proper opera. As a matter of fact, the film is based on a libretto and a music created by the composer Zsòfia Tallér.

Mundruczó managed to make the picture as beautiful as the music: his film is wonderfully colourful (with an emphasis on yellow and green). His film is the work of a great cinephile ; it reminds of the expressionistic style of Carl Dreyer, or even Abel Ferrara. Mundruczó found a way to illustrate this parabole in the most artistic way; his movie is a subtle and very ironic variation on the legend. Johanna also owes a lot to its main actress, the sensual yet evanescent Orsi Toth, who is seen looming in the ghostly places chosen by the director in Budapest: the huge dorms of a 19th Century psychiatric hospital and the tunnels of an empty military hospital.

Camillo De Marco
May 18, 2005

http://www.cineuropa.org