It seems that I’m stuck in a rut, which I would prefer to label a loop. I’m constantly watching Hungarian films about characters stuck in loops of some kind. If it isn’t Poligamy it might be Péter Timár’s A herceg haladéka (2006). The most recent example is called Hurok (2016), which is the Hungarian word for loop. The film is directed by István Madarász, who created some buzz with his very first short called Sooner or Later (Előbb-utóbb) in 2006. It takes place towards the end of WWll when the nazis are performing time experiments, apparently to avoid the impending defeat. An officer interrogates a prisoner and tells him how important the test is. Then things start happening.
The prisoner is supposed to be sensitive to the serum given, and therefore the perfect guinea pig. He is offered some water since it’s said that it won’t affect the experiment’s outcome. The film is only 11 minutes long but manages to create a singular atmosphere. It’s available on YouTube and provides a fascinating first look into the director’s approach. The subtitled version is not of high quality. A non-subbed version is slightly better. It would take a decade for Madarász’s first feature to enter the cinema darkness.
Entre Chien et Loop
Hurok is a gangster film that follows the protagonist, Ádám (Dénes Száraz), who is a drug dealer, more specifically dealing with growth hormones. He and his girlfriend Anna (Dorina Martinovics) are supposed to smuggle said hormones out of Hungary, but they plan to trick the boss Deszö (Zsolt Anger) and go somewhere else. That day Anna announces that she is pregnant, which upsets Ádám, who sends her to see his father, who is a doctor. Meanwhile, he decides to leave her and records a goodbye message on his VCR. Then he notices that the flight tickets are gone. Believing that Anna has taken them, he runs out looking for her.
When he finds her in the street, she is agitated and claims that she witnessed Dezsö killing him. She carries a video cassette that she claims shows the killing. Ádám doesn’t believe what he’s hearing, and then Anna is run over by Dezsö’s van and dies. After some detours, he goes back home, pops the cassette in the VCR and watches himself being killed. Then the film starts looping, for real. Hurok doesn’t pretend to invent the wheel and explicitly pays homage to films dealing with time loops. The film proceeds in an original and inventive way, and it’s worth noting that it doesn’t get bogged down with expository dialogue but rather adheres to the maxim “Show, don’t tell”.
This is not a film for anyone looking for deep characterisations or emphasis on acting. Not that the thespians are necessarily bad, especially Géza D Hegedüs as Ádám’s father, but the temporal pincer movements, avant la lettre, are conveyed through the action, and works quite well. Each iteration of the proceedings presents new elements that will be important for the story. Each of them also displays a growth in Ádám’s personality that is more organic than the growth hormones he’s supposed to carry. The relationship between Anna and Ádám progresses as well and takes the unborn child into account. The budget for the project was relatively modest, but the ingenuity employed still resulted in a memorable film.
The style is vastly helped by András Nagy’s steely lensing. The retro feeling provided by the VCR and other devices is also an asset. Madarász currently has a new film in post-production named Átjáróház. It’s been labelled a fantasy comedy, and so far, there are no details about when it will be released. Hurok is available on Netflix in some areas.