The Budapest subway system, the world?s oldest, is a dark labyrinthine netherworld as vast and various as the city above. Hordes of people pass through on their way to better, brighter places. There are some who spend most... more » of their lives underground- the ticket inspectors or "Controllers" who are assigned in teams to sections of the system and whose thankless job is to ensure that no passengers ride without paying? Deployed by those in control- they are a much-despised lot?who on his way wants to be stopped and asked for a receipt by petty officers that represent power at its most powerless.« less
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 05/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bulscu (Sándor Csányi) works in the Budapest Metro as a ticket checker, an enforcer: he makes sure that people have a ticket to ride the subway and cites them when they don't. From what is on view in Nimrod Antal's provocative and eerie "Kontroll" it seems like most people don't pay and Bulscu and his group get involved in a lot of fist fights and chases in trying to uphold the rules of the underground. As his sorta-girfriend says: "Everyone hates you." "Kontroll" is interesting on several fronts. First of all, it is a Hungarian film directed by an American originally from Hungary...and when was the last time you saw a Hungarian film? Secondly, it is masterfully directed, photographed and staged in the bowels of the Budapest underground metro, which naturally gives the film credence and atmosphere that would not have been possible to reconstruct in any studio set. Thirdly, along with Csanyi's evocative performance as the troubled and conflicted Bulscu, we are introduced to many fine Hungarian actors and actresses who help to make this film the success that it is. Csanyi has the uncanny ability to be strong and intelligent (it is strongly hinted that he was an architect before joining the "underworld") yet he is very much afraid of the world that the escalators up to street level represent. He is of the world but hiding from it and we are not sure why... and this ambiguity strengthens rather than weakens his basic nature because it humanizes him. "Kontroll" is one of those rare films that not only succeeds on its own artistic terms but also stands as an anthropological document of a country that is undergoing rapid, unencumbered social and political change. "
Amazing Film, Subpar DVD (a better DVD release would have ra
Timmy K. | 123 Fake Street, Springfield AX | 08/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many people have already written about what this film is about so I will not say any more on that. I will state simply that this is a wonderful film, one of my favorites from 2005 (the year it played in my local theater), and it is exciting, thought provoking, and often very funny. I went into it originally knowing almost nothing about it and was delighted at what I saw. So much so that I went to see it a second time later in the week before it was gone.
All of that said I was thrilled to get it on DVD. But my thrill turned to slight disappointment when I realized that not only was it a barebones DVD as far as extras go (there are absolutely no extras at all), and not only were the subtitles burned into the image (i.e. non-removable), but it was also a non-anamorphic transfer. In fact the only saving grace for this disc (besides the exceptional film) is that the burned in subtitles are over the film image rather than the black letterboxing. This means that when played on a widescreen TV, and zoomed in to fill the entire screen (to compensate for it not being anamorphic) the subtitles are clearly readable and do not get cut off. But it is completely unforgivable for ANY DVD to be released in the year 2005 with a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer, and burned in subtitles. Unforgivable. And on top of that the film is not inexpensive by any means. Amazon sells it for $24.99 (at the time of this writing), and I purchased it in store for about $28. If it was any other film I would have returned it if at all possible, and been a lot more scathing in my review. But since I absolutely love this film I can only be disappointed that it received about the worst possible DVD release it could get. The only thing that could have made it worse would be if it was only available in a so called "fullscreen" version and not widescreen at all. But having averted that absolute catastrophe scenario they settled on the next worst DVD release they could manage. I'm considering tracking down a much better foreign version I've heard about.
(UPDATE EDIT) Since writing me review I have noticed that the price of this DVD has significantly dropped. As of now (December 2008) it is only $7.99 on Amazon. Taking this into account I can more highly recommend the DVD even given the overwhelming lack of quality presentation I talk about in the review. Sure it is still a shame that this excellent film wasn't presented better on it's DVD, but not as big of a shame as it was when it originally cost $28. This movie, even given this shamefully lackluster DVD release, is well worth $7.99."
Death's Subway Ride
Daly Mavorneen | Los Angeles, CA | 12/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Part humorous gross out film (lots of pissing, vomiting, bleeding, spitting and tooth-picking), part Alice in Wonderland homage (complete with a giant fuzzy bear leading the protagonist down into the subway caves) and part psych 101 character study, Kontroll does not succeed on all these levels, but it sure is a fun ride.
SImply put, it's about one person escaping their self-imposed personal hell by beating death (literally) before death gets him. Throw in a some terrific acting, an arresting score of songs and brilliant film composition, and you have "Angel Heart" meets "The Taking of Pelham 123."
For the people on Netflix & Amazon who want to know the theme song's identity (because there are no music credits & no score CD), it's the lead singer of UK group, Moloko, Roisin Muphy's "Sinking Feelikng" from her brilliant 2005 solo CD, "Ruby Blue.""
Superior Film, Mediocre DVD
Luke Mueller | USA | 03/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kontroll is simply fantastic, as you can already tell from the other reviews; I'm just writing to warn that *this* DVD has absolutely no special features.
The Hungarian version has two discs, anamorphic transfer (lacking in the version offered here), and plenty of special features (including deleted scenes, short behind-the-scenes feature, and two entire short films by director Nimrod Antal).
Don't worry about the fact that it's the Hungarian version, the film still offers subtitles in a few languages including, naturally, English. Also, virtually all of the extras have English subtitles.
I don't know why that edition is not easily available in the States, and I haven't found any good seller of the 2-disc version yet, so if you don't care about special features, the one-disc U.S. version is fine. =) Hopefully Amazon.com will pick up an Americanized 2-disc set eventually."
Man-Made Hell (Not Exactly a Comedy)
amedusa50x | Maryland, USA | 11/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ever since I condemned myself to riding the subway to and from my job 5 days a week for 8 ghastly years until I came to my senses and left Manhattan, subways have always struck me as a man-made hell. That's what the main character of this genuinely different film from Hungary has banished himself to: A hellish subway inspector's job in a nightmare hole in the ground from which he can escape merely by hopping on an escalator and riding up into the light, but it takes him 105 minutes of screen time to decide to do it.
Be honest with you, it felt more like 205 minutes to me while I was watching it. Time doesn't exactly fly by in a nightmare of the type where you keep running and running and don't seem to get anywhere while the Thing that's on your tail keeps advancing on you. To stop such a nightmare, it often takes becoming the hunter instead of the hunted, going after the monster and leading it into a trap instead of allowing it to terrorize you until you're too weak to run anymore.
Don't know quite what the protagonist's problem is in "Kontroll," or which monkey he's got on his back, or why he's banished himself to an impossible job he hates and for which he is hated, or what he fears about the light, but for 80% of this movie I was fascinated because his problem is everybody's problem. His story is Everyman's and Everywoman's story who's had to come to terms with mortality. "Kontroll" has a few amusing moments, sure, but a comedy it isn't.
The film's pacing should have been much tighter, but the acting is almost uniformly superb, with the leading male actor a mesmerizing standout. I could have done without the simpering female lead in the teddy bear suit; mesmerizing, she isn't, though perhaps she just needs a stronger director. The soundtrack is terrific. The photography of the Budapest subway system is breathtaking (and somewhat heartbreaking). The Hungarian language spoken is rich and fertile, and the subtitles are never obtrusive.
5 stars for concept, content, and acting. 3 stars for directing. All in all, a 4-star, highly unusual film well worth seeing, even if it is 20% longer than it needs to be."