Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Elektra My Love * * *

This is one of the best known films by the Hungarian director, Miklas Jansco. This is not a 'film' in the traditional sense of the word. It seemed more like a choreographed musical with the stage being an endless plain. The cinematography is beautiful -- deep colors and sweeping vistas. It does have a plot, but keep in mind that this is really a tragic greek play set to a choreographed Hungarina dance and the film is rather obviously a metaphor for life under communist rule. For example, one of the lines early on is "Lies pollute all like the plague". And the response of the king, is essentially the line I heard a number of times when in East Germany and the Czechoslovaki in the 1980s: "A lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth".

The ubiquitous dances.

The plot is entertaining. Elektra's father, let's call him A1 since I can't recall his name, was a bad king and a weak king. A2, his brother and Elektra's uncle, kills him and takes over. A2 is a tyrant and keeps the populace in check with a combination of fear and placation. Elektra has been grieving her father's murder for the last 15 years. She speaks crazy things like freedom and justice are more important than peace. She is widely regarded as mad -- although she looks mostly like an over-serious 1970s feminist. She is waiting for her brother (played by Cserhalmi) to come back, and kill A2 and avenge A1's death. While waiting for him, she admonishes the people that they accept tyranny for peace and accept lies in exchange for full bellies. The people predictably put their hands over their ears during this sanctimonious lecture. Anyhow, her brother does show up, and Elektra kills him. Conveniently for her, he comes back to life. Her brother then kills A2 and his lackey. Elektra is now happy. Elektra and her brother then kill each other, and then they come back to life. They do this a few times. Finally, they fly off in a red helicopter. I'm not making this up.

I watched Elektra My Love because Gyorgy Cserhalmi is in it and I'm trying to see his films. This is not too big of a task since very few Hungarian films are released on video. Of his 80 or so films, less than 10 have been released. This was the best of the three 1970s films I've seen. In Hungarian Rhapsody, he was desperately wooden, and here he's quite a bit more natural.

Personally, I thought this was a really interesting film. The dances set on the plains were beautiful and I liked the Hungarian folk music that played throughout. That said, this is an Art Film. It's really not like anything you'd normally pick up in Blockbuster, and only those into impressionistic film would want to see this. Finally, the burning question...what on earth are they doing in the top picture with that big ball? Beats me. This was a bit of symbolism that escaped me.

This clip will give you a good sense of the film:

Buy it at Amazon
Rent it from Netflix (amusing plot summary; I don't think they watched the movie)
Rent in person at Scarecrow Video
Good Kinoeye.org discussion of this film

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