10 Hungarian Post-1989 Movies You Must See

 

Some strange movies were made right after the change of regime and, perhaps anticipating the future, none of them was about liberation and hope. They mirrored the dirty, run-down, dodgy Hungarian reality, carrying the message: “Be careful guys, nothing will be good here by itself, it only happens if you sort yourselves out and don’t behave like morons.”

Note that this is not a definitive ranking, the list is purely composed in order of release dates.

  1. My 20th century (1989)

This must be one of the most important feminist movies hailing from the entire region. A stunningly ironic bright tale of the 20th century in which a man is seeking for completeness and perfection in a self-destructive way. It is set in the chaotic confusion of polarity, false appearances, and scientific truths. This movie deals with ‘double individuals’, since the main characters are twins whose identities got lost in a metaphorical mirror labyrinth scene.

  1. Roncsfilm (1992) – Junk Movie

This cult satire takes place in 1989 in Budapest’s most marginalized neighbourhood, district 8. The legendary Gólya Pub, which still exists, is always full of lovely deadbeats, cheaters, and alcoholics, whom are agonizing around, boozing, playing cards, beating each other up a bit, and then doing a lot of nonsense things that are hard to follow. This is a sociographic portrait of loveable low-life characters. The title is Junk Movie because the diegesis has been damaged as the storyline is often interrupted by crappy TV commercials, sound effects, and visuals, which makes the story lose its meaning.

  1. The Outpost (1995)

A talented female engineer is sent to a so-called outpost in Russia, where only the best engineers can get an invitation to. From the very beginning, some inauspicious feeling anticipates that something really tragic is about to happen. She has a travel buddy assigned to her, officially to make sure she is on the right track, but she quickly learns that the entire trip is not about promotion, but rather the opposite. This trip to Siberia actually serves to put her in a detention labour camp to be totally isolated, as she had too much expertise and was therefore potentially dangerous.

  1. Werkmeister Harmonies (2000)

Cult movie from a cult movie director, Béla Tarr, who has often been referred to as the Tarkovsky of his generation. The Werkmeister Harmonies consists of 39 languidly paced shots and takes place during the Soviet occupation of Hungary at the end of the Second World War. Unexpectedly, a travelling circus arrives to a grey, quiet town where the standard of living slowly but steadily is deteriorating. The two biggest attractions of the circus are a prince and a giant whale. Some strangers arrive to the town, whom are encouraged by the prince and some locals to destroy the place. In a short period of time hell breaks loose, and the situation can no longer be controlled by common sense. Everyone suffers in Tarrs movies, and everyone is a victim of a never-ending story told in dark, desperate, sinister monochrome long takes in which salvation or death never comes – just never-ending suffering.

  1. Hukkle (2002)

A speechless noise-symphony of a village of which the rhythm is measured by the regular and constant hiccups of an old villager. Hukkle is an experimental movie dedicated to the famous movie making teacher, Sándor Simó. There are absolutely no dialogues or actors in the entire movie, but beyond painting an idyllic village picture, the film also tells a a crime story where all details are sophisticatedly exposed. This film is highly recommended to be watched several times, as for the first time many sequences and pictures don’t seem to connect. However, they will gain their cohesion and correlation since each and every element belongs to a greater meaning. Every detail grows into something much bigger and more complex, until it starts scratching the surface of deep problems such as the situation of women, and feminism. At the end of the movie, a folk song performed during a wedding exposes the entire crime story, giving a pure mise en abyme.

  1. Kontroll (2003)

The post-renovation metro system of Budapest had a unique atmosphere: dirty, old-school, loveable, and mysterious. Kontroll is entirely shot in the underground system of the city and tells the story of metro ticket inspectors, when repetitive weird suicides overshadow their miserable daily activities. The main character gave up his career and literary slipped underground to become a shameful ticket inspector, to be looked down on, get mistreated everyday, and getting beaten up by both passengers and his rivals. He sinks so deep that he starts living in the underground system, and never goes home again. A surrealistic psycho-schizo story with a fair share of grotesqueness and irony.

  1. Dealer (2004)

This is not a story of your usual gangster hip-hopper slash drug dealer, but rather the Eastern European version of it. The main character is an ex-addict who is cycling around town to visit his customers. He is a proper anti-hero who has absolutely no feelings and no connection to his surroundings. The movie follows him during one of his regular days full of misery, apocalyptic scenes, and surreal craziness. And guess what: somehow he starts feeling again. Amazing camera work with beautiful compositions in long takes.

  1. Liza, the fox fairy (2015)

Black comedy in a very unique style, mixing Japanese 50s pop (Tony Tani), Finnish Western music, and the myth of Kitsune. Liza seems to be cursed as a fox fairy and therefore men are dropping dead around her. The film manages to create a very special atmosphere in Budapest in an imaginary historical time: around the 50s or 60s, but in a market economy-driven society. While our fox fairy is madly in love with everything that is Japanese, the male main character is crazily into Finland, and these two styles are mixing with Hungary during the entire film.

Teaser from the music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gupmu_dfPs

  1. Son of Saul (2015)

Claude Lanzmann, the French movie maker, stated that it is not possible to capture the holocaust because everything that happened there is irrepresentable and inconceivable. He might be right, however, if any movie is able to expose true hell in its deeper extents, Son of Saul is the one. This movie is stressful, terrifying, and emotionally and mentally very exhausting. Already the opening scene is about contrasting screams, commands, yelling, noises, fire: basically the constant movement of acts of horror, while the camera is never resting. The protagonist himself is also a labour camp prisoner, but due to his activities in the Sonderkommando, he is privileged in the camp. Sonderkommandos are work units made up of German Nazi death camp prisoners, usually Jews, who were forced to facilitate the disposal of gas chamber victims during the Holocaust. He decides to bury the body of a young boy and is unrelenting to achieve his goal. Georges Didi-Huberman also praised the film and even wrote a 25-page open letter to the director, which opened with “Your film, ‘Son of Saul,’ is a monster. A necessary, coherent, beneficial, innocent monster.”

  1. The Citizen (2016)

Very accurate and realistic representation of the life of a refugee in today’s Hungary, which has been a hot topic lately due to the refugee crisis and the xenophobia of the Hungarian government. This film tells the story of a Nigerian man living in Budapest for years, whom is fluent in Hungarian, and he really wants to settle down and get his citizenship. This is a challenge: he faces racism and discrimination everyday, and it looks like there is no way out of it. He fails his citizenship exam over and over again, and therefore decides to start private lessons about Hungarian history and civilization. Yes, he falls in love with his teacher, and additionally, he is hiding an undocumented Iranian woman with a baby. The situation becomes unbearable and he needs to choose between his love and his common fate with the Iranian woman.