EU Film Festival In Chicago Brings Europe To American Movie Lovers

  • 20 Mar 2015 7:59 AM
EU Film Festival In Chicago Brings Europe To American Movie Lovers
“Hungary is country full of contradictions, a very colorful place that's a happy and depressive place at the same time. I think Budapest is an exeptionally beautiful capital and it's important to me that people abroad feel the same way about it.” Says Gabor Reisz, the director of the Hungarian comedy “For Some Inexplicable Reason” (Van Valami Furcsa es Megmagyarazhatatlan).

Audiences will get their chance to see Hungary as “a happy and depressive place” at the 18th annual European Union Film Festival in Chicago, which runs throughout the month of March and ends in April.

At this year’s festival two Hungarian films will be part of the line-up and both movies fit Mr. Reisz description of his country. In addition to “For Some Inexplicable Reason”, the socially and politically motivated “White God” (Feher Isten) directed by Kornel Mundruczo will be screened. It won the “Un Certain Regard” award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

The festival allows American movie lovers the opportunity to experience international films from countries they normally wouldn’t look to, namely cinema from Eastern Europe and Hungary in particular.

That is unfortunate and wasn’t always the case. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s Eastern European films were making headlines in America. Moviegoers were being treated to films from Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Germany thanks to various “new wave” movements which saw the emergence of filmmakers such as Milos Forman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Istvan Szabo and Andrzej Wajda at a time when these countries were under the censorship of communist regimes. Their movies were often sharp social criticisms of the political powers which ruled their countries.

Today we see Hungarian filmmakers comment on the social conditions prevelant in Hungary today. When asked what inspired Mr. Reisz to make his film he said “My inspiration came from the twenties and thirties around me” and continued by saying “the idea of the story came from a realization that I haven't seen a Hungarian film since a very long time where the characters were even a little believable to be real people from Budapest.”

Mr. Mundruczo’s film on the other hand has been widely interpreted as an allegory addressing society’s mistreatment of the downtrodden; the poor and working class, the homeless and immigrants, who one day stand up and revolt. It’s story it told through the actions of a dog separated from its owner and the emotional and physical journey it must endure to be reunited.

“For Some Inexplicable Reason” is a lighthearted look at the lives of disenfranchised amateur actors in their 20s and 30s and one in particular who lives with his parents and after he is dumped by his girlfriend finds himself on a trip to Portugal.

Mr. Reisz claims elements of the movie are autobiographical. “In this film, the autobiographical elements are much more to the point" he says “For example the friends of the main character in the film are all amateur actors who are my friends in the real life since high school.”

Despite the autobiographical elements however Mr. Reisz believes audiences abroad, including America, will find something to relate to. “To be honest I wasn't thinking in advance how relatable it will be abroad. During the editing of the film I started wondering about it though.” he stated but after a premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival “we received the feedback from many nations, that they could also understand these problems, despite the fact that it's so Hungarian. This was a big relief.”

“White Dog” on the other hand should resonant with American and European audiences due to the political themes presented. In Europe there is the rise of right-wing political parties such as UKIP in London and the Jobbik party in Hungary. Both have been described by various mainstream media outlets as hostile towards minorities and branded anti-immigrant. The same debate is going on in America concerning the border with Mexico and illegal immigration.

The movie, which is dedicated to Miklos Jancso, the legendary Hungarian filmmaker, who passed away last year, and is best known for his own political films made in the 1960s and 70s lacks Jancso’s visual style of extreme

long shots, minimal camera movement and lack of character’s point of view but it is a confidentially told story by a director with a clear vision and objective. The only wrong step may be an air of satire and dark humor at the end of the picture which becomes repetitive.

Unlike Mr. Mundruczo, who has directed previous films, “For Some Inexplicable Reason” marks the feature film directorial debut of Mr. Reisz, who explained his filming process and concerns on the set saying “The way the film was realized was quite experimental from our side.” and added “we started the editing process while shooting which helped a lot when preparing the new shooting.”

While the nature of the festival is to introduce American artist to European filmmakers, due to the global influence cinema has on all cultures it is worth noting when Mr. Reisz was asked to name influential filmmakers he picked Woody Allen and the Cohen Brothers among others.

This may help American audiences appreciate the styles of today’s Hungarian filmmakers.

By Alex Udvary

Alex Udvary is a Chicago based freelance movie critic and commentator. All of his work can be read at

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