Miklos Jancso

(Copyright © 1999-2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

7.2 Round-up (1965)
6.8 The Red and the White (1967)
6.7 Silence and Cry (1968)
6.0 The Confrontation (1968)
6.6 Winter Wind (1969)
6.8 Agnus Dei (1971)
6.0 Red Psalm (1972)
6.4 Electra My Love (1974)
6.4 Private Vices Public Pleasures (1975)
6.6 Hungarian Rhapsody (1978)
6.6 Allegro Barbaro (1978)
6.6 The Tyrant's Heart (1981)

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.
A trent'anni, dopo aver studiato canto e danza popolare, Miklos Jancso (Hungary, 1921) had been shooting short films and documentaries ever since his graduation from the Film Academy in 1950

Dopo alcune opache prove nel cortometraggio e nel documentario, influenced by the novels of Zsigmond Moricz and by Brecht's theater, conscio del fardello storico nazionale e del suo retaggio culturale, musicale in special modo, inizia a dirigere lungometraggi: A Harangok Romaba Mentek/ The Bells have gone to Rome (1958), starring Miklos Gabor, segnalava già l'intenzione di aggirare l'imperante realismo socialista con astratte aperture simboliste ed espressioniste: during the war, children try to rescue bells that must be melted as metal to make guns

Oldas es Kotes/ To Untie and Retie/ Cantata (1963) fu uno dei film che segnarono l'inizio del rinnovamento del cinema Ungherese dopo la repressione del 1956, ispirato dallo stile di Antonioni e dalla "Cantata Profana" di Bartok: an ambitious young city doctor unsuccessfully tries to reconnect with his peasant father. It's a simple story told via a complex script.

But after this film he abandoned the urban setting.

Igy Sottem/ My Way Home (1964), his first collaboration with screenwriter Gyula Hernadi, conferma il tono privato, e non pubblico, con cui Jancso guarda alla storia del suo Paese; il film, lirico e picaresco, introduce i due motivi ricorrenti della sua opera: figure che vagano, da sole o in gruppo, in paesaggi sterminati e l'incomunicabilità, derivata da Antonioni e resa attraverso un testo estremamente ridotto; in questo caso uno studente taciturno incontra diversi abitanti delle pianure, personaggi misteriosi che non si sa chi sono, da dove vengono e dove vanno; l'azione si svolge durante l'ultimo anno di guerra, e lo studente fa amicizia con un prigioniero russo, ma senza mai diventarne veramente intimo, finchè questi si ferisce e, nonostante i suoi tentativi disperati di aiutarlo, muore.

Szegenylegenyek/ The Round-up (1965), again written by Hernadi, and photographed by Tamas Somlo,. approfondisce il motivo della degradazione della guerra già presente nel precedente. Qui Jancso porta a maturazione il suo stile di regia lento essenziale puro rigoroso, basato sull'uso intensivo del piano sequenza. Il filma apre anche una trilogia della repressione da parte del potere (in questo caso gli austriaci nel 1848). In un forte vengono rinchiusi centinaia di uomini, sospettati di aver aderito alla causa dell'indipendenza; i carcerieri tentano in ogni modo di sapere quali sono i ribelli; cercano di isolarli, di metterli l'uno contro l'altro, li sottopongono a torture morali; visto che tutti i metodi si rivelano infruttuosi, gli austriaci escogitano uno stratagemma: li costringono ad arruolarsi e poi fignono che il capo della ribellione, Sandor, sia stato graziato; i vecchi ribelli intonano canti di vittoria e i soldati li fucilano sul posto. Un ossessivo rituale dell'oppressione, l'atmosfera misteriosa che regna sul carcere, il pessimismo esistenziale, la lenta angosciosa attesa che il destino si compia.

Purezza di stile, concentrazione paranoica, trama elettrica, esotismo dei luoghi.

Csillagosok Katonak/ Stars Soldiers/ The Red and the White (1967),the third part of a trilogy, designed as a grandiose and choral "revolutionary anthem" a` la Eisenstein, is set in 1919 among Hungarian volunteers fighting alongside the Bolsheviks in Russia's civil war. Jancso will return to 1919 twice in his career.
Contrary to Ejzenstein's enthusiastic vision of an unstoppable progress towards the ideal world, Jancso subscribes to an anemic historical pessimism: death, humiliation, annihilation, and moral ambiguity (there is no difference between the victim and the executioner). It is typical that the very prisoners who are about to be executed don't even display the instinct of survival: they have become accustomed to the idea of dying, and perhaps look forward to it. History is just a monotonous sadomasochistic ritual that permeates the desperate lives of his characters. The drawback is that the film suffers from an inconsistent script, that seems to proceed by discrete jumps rather than continuous flow, and from confused scenes, in which it is not clear who is whom. (The rule of thumb is that anyone depicted as a cruel monster is a White and any character who recurs and develops a bit of psychological depth is a Red). It doesn't help that, according with the dogmas of socialist art, there is no protagonist: the people are the only protagonist.

In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the Whites and the Reds (Communists) are fighting for control of Russia. A group of Hungarian volunteers is fighting along the Reds. The action takes place in the countryside.
Horsemen charging down a hill chased a group of fighters on foot until they capture one who just crossed a river. The captain of the horsemen orders him to run back in the river and then coldly shoots him in the back. Another man was hiding in the vegetation and witnessed the whole scene.
The Reds are based in an abandoned monastery. One of the Hungarians takes a group of prisoners outside the monastery, makes them undress and then tells them to run. His friend, a middle-aged Hungarian, is disgusted by those methods. When they go back to the monastery, they find that the Whites have seized it. The Hungarian who made the prisoners strip is now the one who has to strip, but he prefers to jump from the upper story of the building to his death. The Whites are ruled by a cold brutal officer who makes the prisoners strip (and this time they are Reds), tells them to run, but then shoots them. The only one who is spared is the middle-aged Hungarian, who is told "this is not your war". The bulk of the other prisoners are told to take their shirts off and then given 15 minutes to leave the monastery. They start running frantically but soon find out that it's just a cruel joke: the gates is locked. At the end of the 15 minutes they are exterminated. A few manage to escape and are chased by the horsemen. The middle-aged Hungarian is one of them. He runs through the fields to an isolated farm, but is finally captured and executed. The only people in the farm are three women, who refuse to say a word. The youngest is a teenager. The Cossack in charge of the White patrol likes her. He tells the other two women (presumably older relatives) to strip her naked for him. She is saved when a higher officer arrives and has the Cossack arrested and executed. The Cossack hardly cares: he stares at the sky while the soldiers shoot him. The other horsemen are still chasing the half-naked Reds who escaped and who are trying to cross the river. Those who succeed take shelter in a hospital staffed only with female nurses. The women help the wounded Reds but soon the Whites arrive and coldly execute the wonded who are lying on the ground. Some Reds survive though and hide in the hospital. Later most of the women are loaded by another White patrol into a carriage and taken to a forest where they are asked to dance for the soldiers.
An airplane attacks a group of soldiers riding in the fields. The soldiers run for their lives like gazelles in the savannah. When the plane is gone, a captain gets mad at them for running away, some of them unarmed. A few are singled out for being shot for their cowardice but then suddenly another officer throws his gun to the ground and joins the line of soldiers to be executed. That act saves them. The group reforms and follows the new leader.
An airplane flies over the hospital, greeted by both the female nurses and a column of White horsemen that is passing by. Inside the escaped Hungarians are still treated like patients by the nurses. One is sent to alert the Red cavalry that they are trapped behind enemy lines. Another one romances one of the nurses without uttering a word. She seems even more sex-starved than him and tells him he doesn't have to pretend he loves her. However, just then the Whites find him and capture him. She is made to stand naked while they interrogate the kid. Then he is killed in front of her.
The Whites search the hospital for Reds and demand that the nurses point out which of the patients are Reds. Initially the nurses refuse but then, to avoid a massacre, one of the nurses complies (the same nurse who fell in love with the Hungarian kid). The White officer begins to shoot the Reds, who are dying on the ground, but the patrol of Reds arrives just in time to kill him, capture the others of his patrol and free the surviving Whites. One of the White officers asks to join the Reds with his men. The Red commander has the betraying nurse executred (she also betrayed medicine's code of conduct). His triumph is brief: they are attacked by a vastly more numerous White army. Nonetheless, they sing their revolutionary anthem in unison and march down the hill towards certain death. They are exterminated in a few seconds but, in a finale reminiscent of the old Far Western movies of John Ford, the Red cavalry arrives with trumpets and all to claim victory. The Hungarian kid who has led them there walks in the tall grass and pays his respect to the dead bodies of his comrades.
If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

Csend es Kialtas/ Silence and Cry (1968), starring Andras Kozak, set during the uprising of 1919, when Hungary's short lived communist government has been defeated by the fascists, was the first collaboration with cinematographer Janos Kende and again written by Gyula Hernadi. It is one of Jancso's most traditional films.

Durante la repressione del 1919, i seguaci del comunista Béla Khùn sono perseguitati da pattuglie accanite. Uno di essi, Istvan, trova asilo, grazie alla tacita omertà di un funzionario di polizia suo amico d'infanzia, nella fattoria di un uomo, Karoly, succube della moglie e della cognata. Le donne sono morbosamente attratte dal soldato e stanno avvelenando il padrone di casa a piccole dosi. Quando il comunista Istvan se ne accorge non esita a denunciarle alla polizia, anche se così facendo si consegna ai propri persecutori. L'amico comandante, che ora non può più difenderlo, gli offre la propria pistola per suicidarsi, ma lui gliela punta contro e fa fuoco.

Al termine della trilogia l'eroe di Jancso accetta quindi stoicamente il proprio destino di perseguitato. L'intreccio torbido dei personaggi viene risolto con impassibile astrazione, ignorando realismo e psicologismo. Cinema antipsicologico, senza spiegazioni razionali, ermetico, del fallimento e del potere.

Fenyes Szelek/ The Confrontation (1968), his first film in color, includes singing and dancing. Il film riprende il tema della violenza rivoluzionaria, in tutto eguale a quella della repressione, in un tripudio cromatico e sonoro. Nel 1947 gli studenti di una scuola rivoluzionaria fanno propaganda presso quelli di una scuola cattolica, ma presto si trasformano in persecutori, e alla fine vengono puniti dai loro stessi capi.

Sirokko/ Winter Wind (1969) ritorna all'ambiguità di Silenzio e Grido: si situa negli anni '30, quando il governo magiaro dava asilo ai nazionalisti croati, e racconta la missione di un anarchico, devoto alla causa fino al punto da addestrare i terroristi croati e a liberarsi di ogni ostacolo con fredda determinazione, che però sa di rappresentare un elemento scomodo anche per i suoi; e infatti verrà liquidato dagli stessi che lo esalteranno poi come martire. E` un film molto stilizzato, girato in soli dodici piani-sequenza, che accentua il clima astratto e fumoso, rasentando il manierismo.

Egi Barany/ Agnus Dei (1971), set again in 1919 during the last days of the communist regime when the fascists are about to seize power, is a film full of symbols, focused on a duel of personalities

Un sacerdote fanatico si pone alla testa della rivolta sanguinosa contro i comunisti di Bela Khun, trionfa facendo leva sui pregiudizi dei contadini, ma viene eliminato dai fascisti stessi che ha aiutato a vincere.

Dopo due film Italiani, La Pacifista (1970) e La Tecnica e il Rito (1971), Meg Ker A Nep/ Red Psalm (1972) è una patetica cantata rivoluzionaria: i contadini che scioperano contro il latifondo non si piegano né alle minacce né alle promesse e il loro trionfo ha un sapore quasi sacro, laddove l'intera simbologia cristiana viene trasfigurata in metafora sull'avvento del socialismo.

Szerelmem Elektra/ Electra My Love (1974), which consists of just 12 long shots, si serve del balletto e della pantomima per cantare le lodi della rivoluzione permanente.

Another Italian film, Vizi Privati e Pubbliche Virtu`/ Private Vices Public Pleasures (1975), prende lo spunto dalla tragica fine dell'erede al trono d'Austria che si suicidò alla fine dell'Ottocento per fornire un allucinante spaccato di miserie morali, orgia etico-politica.

Dal connubio fra coreografia/musica/balletto e storia nascono Magyar Rapszodia/ Hungarian Rhapsody (1978), set in the 1920s, e Allegro Barbaro (1978), set during World War II, che esplorano ancora le lotte per la liberta` e la stoica sopportazione di un destino tragico. These two films, the most expensive produced in Hungary yet, were supposed to be the first two films of the "Vitam et Sanguinem" trilogy. They are even more cryptic than his early films and employ a further disorienting technique of long shots in which the camera moves from one scene in the present to another scene set in the future (within the same shot).

A Zsarnok Szive/ The Tyrant's Heart (1981) e` un'angosciosa allegoria sull'autodistruzione insita nel concetto di potere: un giovane principe viene richiamato in patria per ereditare il trono, ma subito si scatena una spietata sete di potere che stermina l'intera corte.

A Hajnal/ L'Aube/ Dawn (1985), based on a book by Elie Wiesel, dramma di un terrorista sionista incaricato di uccidere un soldato inglese per rappresaglia; ossessivamente verboso.

His philosophy is centered on the relationship between the dominance of power and the dignity of the individual. History is the broadest setting in which this eternal struggle can be set. Jancso is the poet of the defeated, first identified individually and then considered in their totality as a sort of social class. With no more myths and heroes, Jancso's cinema becomes a chorus of laments. His landscapes are always huge spaces and his essential style sculpts every gesture in this flat universe of silences.

The surrealistic Szornyek Evadja/ Season of Monsters (1986) was his first "urban" film in more than 20 years.

After the fall of communism he made: Isten Hatrafele Megy/ God Walks Backwards (1990), Kek Duna Keringo/ Blue Danube Waltz (1991), Nekem Lampast Adott Kezembe az Úr Pesten/ The Lord's Lantern in Budapest (1999), photographed by Ferenc Grunwalsky, which had five sequels, etc.

Jancso died in 2014 at the age of 93.

(Copyright © 1999-2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )