This might be the most offensive thing I've reviewed. I had no idea when I started watching it. I usually like to go into movies kind of blind, but this was a movie that really didn't need to be as sexually explicit as it was. There is actually a scene where a character watches pornography and we see what she sees. Also, the movie takes place in a slaughterhouse, so you get to experience a cow from life until packaging in one really long scene. The movie is an uncomfortable R.
DIRECTOR: Ildikó Enyedi
Like I mentioned, I knew nothing about this movie going in. All I knew is that it was up for a foreign language Academy Award and that it was streaming on Netflix, so I was going to watch it before the Oscars. My wife thought it was a rom-com. Apparently, the Hungarians have a weird definition of rom-com. It is romantic, in the weirdest way possible. But for a romance, this movie is remarkably bleak. I don't know if it is a Hungarian thing. I don't think it necessarily is. I think a lot of this comes from writer / director Ildikó Enyedi. The movie is insanely intense, but the problem is that I don't think that the content of the movie necessarily needs to be that bleak.
Because this movie is fairly unknown (I think. No one I know has heard of it), the movie follows Endre and Maria. Endre has a dead arm and Maria seems autistic. There isn't much tie to Endre's dead arm considering it seems to be a talking point that doesn't really affect his character. I want to go into this for a while, but I need to get the plot out. In the course of an investigation of an odd theft, it is revealed that these two have had the same strange dream about being deer. Because Maria is awkward and doesn't react traditionally, there is a gap between these two people that eventually becomes a romantic relationship. I really like this concept. I'm not saying that this movie has to be an uplifting film. I don't need it to be fluffy, but Enyedi goes out of her way to make this story as shocking as humanly possible. I've seen worse than this movie. It isn't even going to make anyone's top ten list of most offensive films. But I will put it at number one for most surgically grafted offensiveness. This movie really wants to explore something important. It wants to look at how inorganic relationships really are, especially from the point of view of someone with a degree of autism. There's so much to explore and there's so much to feel. Even pornography and someone's reaction to pornography should be explored. But there is a way to film that without having to show how shocking this movie could be. I know that Enyedi believes that these scenes should make the audience uncomfortable. There might be a place for that in film. People shouldn't always be comfortable, but the tonal choice of this movie doesn't match the content. This is a story about two people with the same dream and how unnatural relationships are. There is a moment in the movie that is really jokey. Maria wants to find a CD and she comes up with a stack of CDs and they range from death metal to muzak. The movie acknowledges that comedy is important to the whole experience. But these moments are thrown into a stew that has hardcore porn and cow mutilation in it. As part of that, the movie has to make us like these characters. I genuinely don't really like any of the characters, let alone want them together. I admit that I have sympathy for Maria, but I don't want her with this guy. Enyedi presents him as pretty unlikable, but the point of the movie is that Maria finds a way to communicate her feels. So what is there to root for? I want her to have a human experience, but that only leads to her downfall. Meh.
I partially feel like Enyedi had some really good footage of deer and managed to revolve a movie around it. The weird thing about this whole movie is that I thought that I was enjoying it for a while. Maybe that is all that defines "enjoyment", but I swore that this movie was actually pretty genius. But like a big old dope, I had a bowl of cereal and fell asleep. I came back on day two, swearing off sleep-inducing carbs. But then I realized it might not have been the carbs. It may have been a mix of twee, darkness, and nothing happening. Part of what makes it so dull and sleepy for me is the fact that the choices made by the characters are absolutely bizarre. Endre seems like a decent sort. But every time that Maria makes a step towards encouraging a relationship, he does something that is both perplexing and terrible. There's no real reason for it. He is inherently a selfish guy, which can only be gleaned from watching the movie as a whole. Every time we are exposed to Endre, he is kind and compassionate. He seems like he has a good head on his shoulders. But then he treats Maria terribly at times and these scenes don't make a lick of sense. Perhaps the message is that both people in a relationship are really the ones who have something to work through, but the sympathetic character is Maria. As part of this, and I'm going to get REALLY SPOILERY, is that Maria attempts suicide without any foreshadowing. I never really get that she was suicidal or depressed so much as she marched to her own beat. Any of this can be written off as the fact that real depression isn't necessarily telegraphed, but I also can say that it doesn't fit with the movie. It kind of falls into that whole "shock-for-shock value" element of the movie. Also, Endre never really reacts to the whole thing. This makes him look like an absolute monster and I don't think that is what Enyedi is shooting for. These scenes should be major developmental moments for the character, but the tone wants to treat these major moments with an eye of detachment. I don't like that. I don't really know the rules of the movie and that is really troubling. Does nothing matter in this world? Are choices not meant to be consistent? Endre vocalizes his moral code with his interactions Sandor, but then acts totally differently? If that was his character, fine. But no one ever reprimands him for this behavior. No one even addresses each others choices. There are just these weird moments of misbehavior that are ignored. If that's what Hungary is like, I don't want to go back. Sorry, Czaba.
The aesthetics of the film are the only things that really work the way that they are supposed to. The tone, as I mentioned, is challenging. As part of that, the visuals, considering how intense they are, really work. The color palate of this movie really enhances the overall mood. I don't know why Enyedi wants her romance movie to be cripplingly depressing, but her visuals really support that whole thing. Setting the movie in a slaughterhouse needs to have a certain dirty, yet sanitary feeling to it and this movie gets that across pretty well. Also, the fact that both Endre and Maria look like normal people does help. I don't know if we're supposed to find Endre as a handsome male lead, but his general presence sells the character in the way that the character is supposed to be interpreted. I guess he's "head-of-a-Hungarian-slaughterhouse" handsome? That's a thing, right? Regardless, all these women find him attractive, so I'm going to let that go. But the movie really shines with its deer footage. The movie keeps cutting back to the deer. The deer are supposed to represent something, I suppose. I know it is the two of them and they have discussions about the relevance of their dreams, but the shots just look cool. There is a tracking shot of a deer in the woods that I'm not sure how they got to look so fluid. I question whether if that scene was CG or just a very talented cinematographer. But the dream sequences help give the movie a relevance that it probably wouldn't have without them. This movie would actually be remarkably superficial if it wasn't for the dream sequences constantly cutting in, reminding me that I'm watching art. Sorry, I'm also very superficial, so I guess I shouldn't be throwing stones at this movie. But watching those sequences made me at least really invest in the movie, even if I didn't necessarily get the payoff I wanted.
I usually like the international choices a lot. These are the hardest movie to get a hold of before the Oscars, but they usually have some chops to them. This is not a good start to the whole category. I'm going to try and watch The Square tonight because I need something to root for in the category. I hope to never have to watch this movie again because I need something less bleak in my life.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.