Filming in Hungary

Hungary's Latest and Greatest Films

An Insight Into The Unique World of Hungarian Cinema

Hungarians have taken an important part in the film world ever since its beginning more than a hundred years ago. While many Hungarian filmmakers emigrated to the West in the middle of the 20th century, the Soviet era provided infrastructure for Hungarian films to flourish, though within strict political boundaries. After the political change and due to the 2008 financial crisis, the future of this country’s film production was somewhat under question.

Yet in the last few years to everyone’s delight and surprise a new wave of unique and successful films have arrived. Here is Progressive’s collection of the best.

Hungarians have taken an important part in the film world ever since its beginning more than a hundred years ago. While many Hungarian filmmakers emigrated to the West in the middle of the 20th century, the Soviet era provided infrastructure for Hungarian films to flourish, though within strict political boundaries. After the political change and due to the 2008 financial crisis, the future of this country’s film production was somewhat under question.

Yet in the last few years to everyone’s delight and surprise a new wave of unique and successful films have arrived. Here is Progressive’s collection of the best.

The Audio-Visual Journey with the Sonderkommando

In the Son of Saul, the director László Nemes Jeles revisited the topic of the Holocaust like no other filmmaker. Firstly he chose to focus on the Sonderkommando a group of prisoners, who had to work at gas chambers in the death camps. Secondly, he created an unprecedented visual-audio world which shifted its focus from showing the horror’s of the Holocaust in a straightforward graphic manner, but rather conveying it as the viewer’s personal dark journey accompanying the main character.

Youtube Trailer for son of saul

They reached this unusual effect filming on 35mm film in 4:3 ratio, constantly with close-up framing, keeping the camera on the head of the lead, or on the narrow sight he can see. This way we get personal impressions of the terrible scenes, therefore we are not simply the viewers anymore of the dramatic violence. This effect was enhanced by its outstanding sound design, which focused on conveying the impression that the viewer is one of the kommando members as well. No wonder a film so unconventional and profound was awarded an Oscar!

Youtube an interview with son of saul's dop

How to Face the End of the Second World War

Another film that deals with the events connected to the Second World War is Ferenc Török’s 1945. Made in 2017, this movie deals with the fact that countryside Hungarian authority and inhabitants of a village deported jews and confiscated their property. Yet it shown a unique point in time; it does not show how these atrocities happened during the war, but rather what happened after the end of the war and the defeat of Hungary. It shows the complicated issue of what happens when the survivor jews come back to their home village to live again in their confiscated homes and to live next to those who did crimes against them. Everyone has to question and face their own conscience and role in the community.

Youtube TRAILER FOR 1945

This film is important because it shows the huge tensions and hard situations that occurred in Hungary after the Second World War. Matching the serious nature of the topic, the movie is black and white.

What It Takes to Become Hungarian

The Citizen was created by Roland Vranik in 2016, in the height of the refugee crisis thousands of people escaped to Western Europe through Hungary, which became a central issue in local and international politics. This film is outstandingly honest film on human nature, empathetically telling the story of three people, two refugees and one Hungarian, among whom neither are right or wrong, but simply human. It is striking to see a film with so much humanity in such inhumane times. Its film language is simple and flawless, unpredictable and free of clichés.

Youtube trailer for the citizen

Mundroczó’s Symbolic Films

Made in 2014, Kornél Mundroczó's film White God won the Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival. Its first unconventional aspect is that its main character is a mixed-breed dog, who is much loved by his owner, a young girl. When she moves in with her father, he gets rid of the dog by leaving it out on the street. After countless dark adventures the dog sets itself free and starts a revolution with other dogs against the people who were cruel to them.

Youtube white god's trailer

Finally free, this huge pack of hundreds of dogs run through the streets of Budapest terrorizing the locals for revenge. They create an astonishing sight, for example while running through the Buda Tunnel. It is a unique story of a minority breaking free and taking revenge on its god-like authority - humans.

A year after The Citizen by Roland Vranik, Kornél Mundruczó also created a film about the refugee crisis called Jupiter’s Moon. The movie accompanies a teenager Syrian refugee in Hungary, a story which becomes more and more transcendent. Although he was afflicted with fatal wounds, he not only continues living, but also gains the superhuman ability of flying. Awe-inspiring cinematography captures these flights above Budapest in an outstandingly beautiful way, featuring various special spots of the Hungarian capital. Unlike The Citizen’s raw humanity, this film offers a more symbolic reading in a transcendental manner, alluding to religious motifs.

Youtube the trailer for jupiter's moon

Youtube behind the scenes of jupiter's moon

Dreams and Love in a Slaughterhouse

Made in 2017, On Body and Soul is a beautiful and truly unique love story featuring two workers in a slaughterhouse. Full of symbolics and humanity, Ildikó Enyedi’s movie is undoubtedly one of the most psychological and spiritual made lately, which is undoubtedly why it won the Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear award, was nominated for an Oscar and why Alexandra Borbély, the lead actress won the European Actress award at the European Film Awards.

Youtube official trailer for on body and soul

Intimate Insights into Various Generations

The 2016 film It's Not the Time of My Life is an intimate depiction of midlife crises and tension when two couples and their children have to live together temporarily in a flat. An interesting fact is that the entire film was shot in the director’s, Szabolcs Hajdú's flat completely independently, without any state funding. At the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival it was awarded the Crystal Globe and the Best Actor Award. This seems to be part of a new wave of honest, intimate films about specific generations.

Youtube it's not the time of my life trailer

Another film like this is For Some Inexplicable Reason made by Gábor Reisz as his diploma film at the Hungarian Film and Theatre University. Premiered in 2014, it won multiple awards at the Turin Film Festival for its unique candity and playful film language with which he presented the existential and romantic crisis of an unemployed fresh Humanities graduate in Budapest. Next to this, its humor and music made by the director and lead actor quickly made it a favourite movie for Hungarian millennials.

Youtube trailer for For Some Inexplicable Reason

The Power of Community

Sing is a Hungarian short film, that won an Oscar in 2016. The beautifully produced film directed by Kristóf Deák can be read as a symbolic work about the psychology of communities and authority. It was set in 1991, emphasising its historical and political aspects, that are also relevant in our current times.

Youtube sing trailer

This seems to be a period in Hungarian film, which is one of reflection on one’s own generation, on current issues and on the unprocess issues of Hungarian history. Not only are the topics outstanding and sincere, but also the film language and style of each of these films are unique, showing how rich Hungary is not only in directors, but also in DOPs and sound designers, not to mention brilliant locations!

Béla Tarr, The Internationally Acclaimed

“Béla Tarr is one of the cinema’s most adventurous artists, and his films, like Sátántangó and The Turin Horse are truly experiences that you absorb, and that keep developing in the mind.” said Martin Scorsese.

He started out as an amateur filmmaker, working on films from his teens and even making an independent feature film in 1981 with the support of experimental filmmakers before gaining a place at the Hungarian University of Theatre and Film at the age of 22. His first films were documentalist in style, often using amateur actors and shooting on location. In the late 1980s, he developed his strong style and started his collaboration with the writer László Kransznahorkai and composer Mihály Víg. His films’ absurdity and stylization overpasses documentative film sensibility. What quickly became known worldwide as Tarr’s trademark film language is typically a dark, black and white, slow-paced world of decay with figures hopelessly existing in the bleak Hungarian countryside. Controlled camera work and extremely long takes of scenes void of action or narrative lead to his strong, unique film style, which may seem similar to Tarkovsky, but only superficially, since this is a raw, post-Christian world lacking spirituality. The bleakness can also be read as the general pessimistic and cynical mentality of late-soviet states. He went on to direct seven films in this style, among which the most famous is undoubtedly Satan’s Tango.

Ever since the debut of his first film, he has received international acclaim among filmmakers and critics, as well as global attention, that has only intensified as he developed and matured as a director. He shot The Man from London in 2008, starring Miroslav Krobot and Tilda Swinton and was featured at that year’s Cannes Film Festival. His last film is named The Turin Horse, which was premiered in 2011 and was awarded the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. He then stated that he is retiring from directing feature films. He was only 56 years old at the time. He believed to have made everything he wanted to, so it was time to stop shooting, not wanting to bore anyone by repeating himself. Then between 2013 and 2016 he founded and taught at the Sarajevo film.factory film university. In 2017, he created an interactive film exhibition in Amsterdam about the refugee crisis and human dignity, creating a summary of his life-work. He is still active in international film education, aiming to assist the next generation of filmmakers into this world. 

His trademark style is so prominent that it often leads him to surpass other famous directors, leading him to become one of the most well-known directors of independent film, even outside this genre. This is how he has earned such key places in film listing as 13th in The Guardian’s list of the world’s 40 best film directors, overtaking Tarantino, Altman, Almodovárt and Spielberg.

A Woman’s Everyday Struggles

One Day is Zsófia Szilágyi’s first feature film made in 2018 with the funding of the Hungarian Film Foundation’s Incubator program supporting newcomers. We whisked away the whirlwind of the heroine’s challenging life in which she has to work, lead a household, look after her three children and face the turmoil of her marriage. The use of sensual sound design, intense editing and realistic cinematography create a raw movie, that was awarded in the Cannes Film Festival with the FIPRESCI Prize. As The Hollywood Reporter put it Szilágyi has created “...a fully immersive experience”

Youtube EGY NAP (ONE DAY) - Trailer

A Personal Journey into the Crimean War

Nine Month War tells the story of Jani, a young Hungarian man living in Ukraine with his mother and girlfriend. He decides to accept when he is drafted by the Ukranian Army and leaves to fight on the front line of the War in Donbass.

Youtube NINE MONTH WAR - trailer

The documentary draws a sensitive portrait of the family facing the dangers of war and the absence of Jani, while he sets out to seek a right of passage to becoming a man. This film is also significant because of the experimental way it incorporates mobile phone video footage that Jani took on the front to send back home. Winning the Sarajevo Film Festival’s Jury Prize, this is the first documentary of the director László Csuja, whose award-winning first feature film was also premiered in 2018.

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