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Hungarian Traditional Nook: The Witness

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At over half a century previous, the Hungarian movie A Tanú (The Witness), written and directed by Péter Bacsó, stays on the forefront of daring must-see cinema in relation to regional classics. The darkish comedy, and searingly subversive satire of communist occasions, holds up and stays related to up to date viewers, as evinced by a 2019 revival on the Cannes Movie Pageant, within the Cannes Classics part.

Telling the story of a hapless dam-keeper who unintentionally turns into concerned in a single political scheme after one other, Wikipedia summarises the movie’s plot as such: The movie options József Pelikán as a single father who beforehand participated within the WW2 communist motion of Hungary, however is now working as a dike-reeve. He meets an previous pal from the underground communist motion, Zoltán Dániel, now a authorities official who fishes on the Danube, close to the dike. Dániel falls within the river, and Pelikán rescues him and invitations him to his dwelling. Whereas the 2 reminisce previous occasions at Pelikán’s dwelling, the ÁVH out of the blue seems. They obtained a “severe nameless report” stating Pelikán dedicated an unlawful act of slaughtering a pig for meals. Dániel tries to save lots of him by demonstrating to the ÁVH thugs how the loyal Pelikán hid him throughout the purging years earlier than, however he unknowingly reveals the basement, the place all of the pork had been hidden.

Suppressed for a few years — 10 in Hungary earlier than its launch — The Witness acquired its Stateside premier in New York solely in 1981. Janet Maslin, the New York Instances’ high movie reviewer on the time, had this to say: Mr. Bacsó‘s model of comedy is as stolid as Pelikan himself. However his jokes are broadly satisfying, and he launches his satirical swipes with a pleasant lack of inhibition.

It’s exhausting to overstate how daring and trenchant The Witness was for its time. Sort of like Orwell writing Animal Farm from inside the Soviet Union. For an extended, extra in depth remedy of the politics behind The Witness, and its journey from Bacsó’s inception, to its place amongst worldwide movie classics, take a look on the fantastic Nationwide Movie Institute of Hungary’s website, the place the restoration supervisor wrote an extended publish on the subject. It was the exhausting work of the Institute that noticed the restored and uncensored model of the movie re-released.

In the meantime, The Witness continues to accrue a cult following overseas, and function one of many uncommon really hilarious satires of the Socialist period, made inside that period. Take a look on the English language subtitled trailer to see what we imply.

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