Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|25 Firemans Street|
Actors: Lucyna Winnicka, Margit Makay, Károly Kovács, Andras Balint, Erzsi Pasztor
Genres: Art House & International, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Kino International Release Date: 08/03/2004 Run time: 97 minutes Rating: Nr
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Bringing Down the House
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 08/04/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"There's a demolition set for the following morning as a family (consisting of actors; Lucyna Winnicka, Margit Makay, Karoly Kovacs, Janos Janl, Edit Lenkey, and Zoltan Zelk) spend one last night in their home. Everyone seems to be having difficulty sleeping as each has dreams of the memories the house brings.
There's an old saying, "out with the old and in with the new", and it's what is at the heart of Istvan Szabo's film.
The movie is primarily flashbacks going through most of Hungary's history and the personal memories it bring for these family members. Most of the stories involve Nazis or Communist. And each deals with a personal struggle.
The film is also not just about these characters but Hungary itself.
The main reason I chose to review this film at this particular time is because Hungary is in the midst of celebrating the 50th anniversay of the Hungarian Revolution. If you follow the news you'll know recently even President Bush went to Hungary to comment on the event.
Keeping all this in mind, not to mention the stories I've been hearing at home, I've decided to go back and rewatch Szabo's films. I've always thought very highly of his work. A few years ago I reviewed his "Being Julia" and gave it four stars. I've never been shy about my admiration for "Sunshine", a film I think was robbed of Oscar nominations, and one of the leading reasons why I don't watch the show anymore. I also enjoyed his "Mephisto" and "Father".
But, now that I'm older and hopefully a little wiser, I see deeper into Szabo's work. I see a man who had a love of country and for his people but was caught within a duality.
There's a rich nostalgia in "25 Firemans Street" and "Father" but also something bittersweet. In this film the characters are sad to see the house go and perhaps one day lose the memories associated with it but on the other hand, there is a sense of hope. Perhaps it's good the country and the people are moving in a new direction. Better times may follow.
I don't think there's a large audience for a film such as this. It doesn't follow a "classical structure", there's no real character development, and plot structure may confuse some. But if one sticks with the movie and allows themself to get swept away in the film's charm I think you may find it rewarding. Because, even if one isn't interested in Hungarian culture, look at it this way. Lets assume the house you lived in was going to be torn down or you were going to move from the house where you grew up, wouldn't you feel a sense of lost?
Szabo's films, while they deal with Hungary, can transcend beyond that. His films are simply about people and emotions. And that's something we can all relate to.
Bottom-line: Not one of Szabo's great films, the movie carries a nostalgia that is infectious. It is a film about a country and its people and what the future may bring. It may not be great but it's pretty darn good anyway."
A surreal survey of 20th century Hungarian history
J. Michel | Saint Paul, MN | 12/20/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"An old apartment building in Budapest is being torn down and its former residents recall memorable events in their lives associated with that address.
Istvan Szabo, the film's director (famous for his "Mephisto"), claims "25 Firemans Street" was not meant to be surreal or fantastic -- but that's exactly how it comes off. Scenes shift between dreams and reality . . . the dead converse with the living (or is it vice-versa?) and time melts back and forth between pre-War times, Nazi-era WWII, and post-war Communist rule.
Perhaps to Hungarians who survived all the crazy shifts of their 20th century political history, what might seem "surreal" to outsiders is all-too "real" to the natives!
That may be true, but apparently even some contemporary Hungarian audiences found this film confusing when it was first released there. Non-Hungarian audiences (count me as one) might be even more confused by all the dizzying imaginative leaps Szabo makes from scene to scene as the film progresses. "What does that particular uniform or flag signify?" you might ask yourself, for example.
Ideally, I suppose, one should be able to instantly recognize all the film's potent images and historical references. Obviously Szabo intends that the kaleidoscope-like presentation of these powerful images should evoke complicated, nuanced emotional and political resonances -- and I imagine any native who has lived through the traumas of 20th century Hungarian life could point out layer upon layer of humor, irony, etc. to non-Hungarian viewers.
So, should you take a chance on this film?
Anyone curious about contemporary Hungarian cinema -- or 20th century Hungarian history -- will probably find this a very thought-provoking film that will repay repeated screenings.
Anyone who enjoys film-making that might be described as belonging to the "fantasic realism" or "surreal" school will probably find this Hungarian effort by one of that country's master directors well worth at least one viewing.
As for me, I'm holding on to my copy for repeated viewings, and puzzling out its layers of references is part of its appeal.