If you’re a fan of art movies, you will appreciate the Hungarian film scene
While Hungarian films may have fallen short of impressing Western critics in past years, it’s safe to say that Hungary’s dry spell in the film industry is officially over. With new enthusiasm from an emerging generation of talent Hungarian cinema has rediscovered its unique voice, and its popularity amongst Hungarians and festival audiences abroad is growing. Quality films that have been released in recent years have represented Hungarian cinematography on the international film festivals of Cannes, Berlin, Montreal, Toronto, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Though it’s only beginning to truly gain worldwide recognition lately, Hungary has had a notable cinema industry from the beginning of the 20th Century. Hungarian directors like István Szabó, Béla Tarr, or Miklós Jancsó, as well as successful films such as Mephisto (won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1982), Colonel Redl and Kontroll, have helped to put Hungarian cinema on the map. When it comes to filmmaking, Hungary’s got a large number of famous ancestries under its belt as well. Vilmos Zsigmond was nominated for four Academy Awards for cinematography; László Kovács, most famous for his work on Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, won three Lifetime Achievement Awards for cinematography; and Ernest László, who worked on over 60 films, won an Academy Award for cinematography. Casablanca and The Shawshank Redemption, films that are considered by many critics as amongst the greatest movies ever made, are Hungarian creations. Casablanca’s Hungarian Director, Michael Curtiz, won an Academy Award for Best Directing for this classic film, and Director Frank Darabont, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Directing three times, is most popular for Stephen King adaptations, including The Shawshank Redemption. Other notable Hungarian filmmakers include George Cukor, who won an Academy Award for Best Directing for My Fair Lady; the Korda brothers, who were leading figures in the British film industry; Joe Eszterhas, who wrote the screenplay for Basic Instinct; and Andrew G. Vajna, producer of the Die Hard and The Terminator sequels.
Beyond mainstream success, Hungarian cinema has also found its niche in the independent and art/cult market. Antal Nimród received acclaim for his cult film Kontroll, Peter Medak remains infamous for his B-movies, and László Benedek gained recognition for the Golden Globe-award winning film rendition of Death of a Salesman. There is something truly unique about the way that Hungarian artists see the world. Many of Hungary’s successful films unfortunately never make it beyond the art film festivals in the West, so for film buffs a trip to one of Budapest’s art theaters is a must during their stay. Budapest has a chain of art cinemas showcasing the latest Hungarian films. The Budapest Sun will be your best source for movie listings. The best time to catch a Hungarian art movie is during the two major film festivals in Budapest. The Hungarian Film Week is held in February and the Titanic International Filmfest is held in April.
Brush up on your Hungarian film knowledge before you visit – here are some of the most recent successes to come out of Hungary:
Bibliotheque Pascal (2010) by Szabolcs Hajdu - The latest hit of Hungarian cinema follows the life of a single mother who leaves her 3 year old with relatives while she tries her luck in Western Europe.
Puskás Hungary (2009) by Tamás Almási - A spectacular documentary about Ferenc Puskás, undoubtedly the most famous Hungarian, regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time.
Chameleon (2008) by Krisztina Goda - A con artist with an unusually high IQ coupled with multiple personalities targets lonely women. He fakes love, takes all their savings and moves on. Until one day he falls for his victim.
The Investigator (2008) by Attila Grigor - Director Attila Grigor captivated audiences at international film festivals, including Kiev, Warsaw, Karlovy Vary, Bratislava, Malaga and Cleveland with his award winning drama, featuring a coroner who needs money to save his dying mother. He agrees to kill a man for a substantial amount, but finds out that the person he killed is somehow related to him. He starts to investigate only to find out more about his victim and himself.
Made in Hungaria (2008) by Gergely Fonyó - After a prolonged stay in the U.S., a Hungarian teenybopper teaches his Communist-era peers about rock ‘n' roll in this fluffy but swinging musical romance.
The Man from London (2007) by Béla Tarr - A switchman at a seaside railway station witnesses a murder. He leaves his control room and goes to the scene where a man was hit and fell into the water. He can’t find the body but there is a suitcase floating in the water. He recovers the suitcase and finds that it’s packed full of money.
Children of Glory (2006) by Krisztina Goda - A film about the 1956 revolution. Hungary is politically dominated by the Soviet Empire. Yet, Hungary is also a superpower - the Hungarian national water polo team remains undefeated and plays against the Russian team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
White Palms (2006) by Szabolcs Hajdu - A film about a talented gymnast, whose carrier is cut short by an injury. He moves to Canada to become a coach and rebuild his life.
Fateless (2005) - Based on the novel by Nobel Prize winning author Imre Kertész and directed by Academy Award winning director of photography Lajos Koltai. Fateless tells the gripping story of a Hungarian Jewish boy who volunteers to go to a concentration camp during World War II, convinced that his life will be safer there. In 2005 the Oscar Nomination Board selected Fateless as an official nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.
Johanna (2005) by Kornél Mundruczó - A musical interpretation of the Passion of Joan of Arc, Johanna was selected as ‘Un Certain Regard at Cannes’ in 2005.
Being Julia (2004) by Academy Winner István Szabó - Telling the story of a great actress who, at an important crossroads in her life, must figure out her role, both onstage and off.
The Unburied Man (2004) by Márta Mészáros - A profile of Hungary's 1956 martyr Prime Minister Imre Nagy.
Kontroll (2003) by Antal Nimród - An action thriller set entirely in the grungy stations and dark tunnels of Budapest’s subway system. The film received several awards, including ‘Best Director’ at the 2004 Copenhagen International Film Festival, ‘Le Prix de La Jeunesse’ at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the 2004 Chicago International Film Festival.
If you are interested in the movie industry, take a day trip to Etyek and visit the Korda Filmpark for revealing guided tours on filmmaking.