The Hungarian films screened recently in Chandigarh vividly captured the inner turmoil and socio-political concerns of a people caught in the throes of change.
Aditi Tandon reports
The world of films has never been so vibrant The trickle-down effects of this churning are thoroughly visible at smaller planes which are now being exposed to aspirations of world communities through the fascinating medium of films. Like Delhi and other Indian metros that have reserved their share of international film festivals, Chandigarh is fast taking its place in this small but rapidly expanding scenario where international cinema means more than just Hollywood films. In this realm lies a world of wonderment and realisation, a part of which was recently unfolded for the audience of Chandigarh, long deprived of meaningful international cinema.
The set of three Hungarian films which Chandigarh Film Society brought to the city between December 22 and 24 mirrored the aspirations of a people struggling to make sense of their surroundings. Amidst the routine cinematic elements of surprise, passion, lust and desperation, the three films dealt with the deepest social and political concerns of an average people caught in the "morass of change" which threatens their identity, while ironically promising stability.
The celebrated Hungarian film maker Krisztina Deak’s classic Jagdiva’s Pillow which opened the Hungarian Film Festival in Chandigarh told an incredibly overwhelming tale of the Slovakian minority inhabiting the Hungary of 1910s and 1920s. Creating a nostalgic sense of history, the production leads its audience through a community’s struggle for recognition and survival as also through a passionately painful marriage held to ransom by temptations and destructive longing.
Jagdiva and Ondris, the protagonists of the film, become symbols of collective aspirations of Slovaks whose attempts to belong somewhere are thwarted by peace dictated by the victorious Entente in World War I. Their movement to consolidate themselves as a people who deserve social and political rights despite the fall of Astro-Hungarian Monarchy is swept away by changing political equations. Despair is palpable in Jagdiva’s and Ondris’s marriage as in the political developments of those times which accommodate Czechoslovakia in the north but suppress the voice of Slovaks elsewhere.
At another plane, Ondris fears losing his mysterious wife to a former seducer. Suddenly he finds his entire sensibilities warped by the unwelcome changes in his life: he is in danger of losing his marriage; of becoming an instrument in the hand of those who try to quench the Slovakian consciousness; of losing his mother dying of the pain which unrequited love begets.
The director brilliantly handles the element of "disintegration" in personal and political life. The film finally deals with human contradictions – there is mutual goodwill and emotional bonding between Jagdiva and Ondris but nothing can prevent the marriage from souring`85
Conflict which forms the crux of Jagdiva’s Pillow produced by Duna Television of Hungary further travels to the canvas of Gothar Peter’s Outpost which portrays a woman’s ordeal in extreme climatic and emotional conditions. Gizi Weiss must take on the challenge of serving at the out post. The journey is hazardous and tormenting, often punctuated with memories which old acquaintances bring alive during brief encounters along the way. Gizi is headed for the highest point where a deep morass awaits her in the form of ‘Petya’ whom she will deeply value and love. But he will not. The film deals with the ensuing suffering of a woman led into love by a man who loathes commitment.
The Prosecution by Sara Sandor was well chosen to wrap up the three-day festival which offered a virtual insight into the inspirations of Hungarian film makers. Famed for his cinematic excellence, Sandor recreates the era of Russian occupation in Hungary. His film explores the element of vindictiveness as practiced by the Occupants in 1944 and 1945. The Prosecution is a poignant story of a Hungarian family victimized by Russian soldiers who cross all limits of decency in their urge to implicate the family that refuses to surrender.
As the family struggles for safeguarding honour, armed soldiers unleash hell. In the course of the film, some men are killed, and the onus falls on the already persecuted family. Travesties of justice are then played out during the court martial and three "victims of tragedy" end up being executed.
Masterfully shot, the film bares the genius of Sara Sandor, who earlier headed Dona Television in Hungary. It is good to recall that the celebrated film maker was in Chandigarh in 1996, looking for gypsies whom he wanted to film. Tapesh Sharma, secretary of Chandigarh Film Society, had even managed to give the renowned director some clues.