Set in central russia during the cival war of 1918 the story details the murderous entanglements between russias red soldiers and the counter-revolutionary whites in the hills along the volga. The epic conflict moves with ... more »skillful speed from a deserted monastery to a riverbank hospital to a massacre. Studio: Kino International Release Date: 01/08/2002 Run time: 92 minutes Rating: Nr« less
Charles S. Tashiro | Agoura Hills, CA USA | 02/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Great films like "The Red and the White" stun and overpower us into forgetting every other movie we have seen. They don't cater to our prejudices, they don't flatter us into feeling good about ourselves. They refresh the art's potential and risk losing their audiences through their radical singleness of purpose. They transform experience, in short they make a *difference.*Such works result from one person, usually a director, pursuing an idea with a fascistic insistence that nothing matters more than the film. This is one reason Hollywood so rarely creates great works. Studios with a vested interest in keeping audiences infantile force even the best directors to trim their visions. Hollywood's contempt for the audience makes it impossible for a Miklos Janscó, with his disregard for the rules of smooth construction, indifference to sympathetic characterization, hypnotically absorbing camerawork and pessimism about humanity, to work on the scale his epic conception requires. Staged on a huge canvas, this dramatization of an obscure incident during the Russian Civil War may take place in the Soviet Union, but at one level exists only in the world created by the film itself. Questions of historical or geographic veracity are moot. What matters is the inexorable unwinding of a logic that reveals the casual brutality of human behavior. Yet while the action is grim, what makes the film so powerful is how *beautiful* it is. "The Red and the White" is full of haunting, unforgettable moments, such as a dance in the forest by nurses commandeered to perform for a White Russian officer, or the shots of mounted Red cavalry fleeing a White bi-plane, or the bitter irony of witnessing the execution of a Cossack for an offense far less serious than those we have seen him commit. All of these moments are exquisitely, but quickly staged, the camera gliding by almost indifferently, as if barely interested in them.It is tempting to suggest that the DVD's producers are barely interested in them either, since the transfer is at best acceptable. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend that if you are even remotely interested in the film that you buy the DVD without hesitation. Quite apart from the likelihood that it will quickly go out of print, it is rare indeed to be able to support such singularly epic visions, to prove to anyone interested in listening that audiences can, in fact, respond positively when treated as adults."
Brilliant, Unconventional, and a Must See
Mad Dog | Canada | 10/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first time I saw "The Red And The White" I lost track of the story. The "problem" with this film is that it is not a drama with a focus on character, simply a collection of sequences in a day of fighting. It was disorienting and I wasn't prepared for it. But I was intrigued by the idea, so a year later later I watched it again.And I'm glad I did.The second viewing is a real eye-opener. This film is simply extrodinary. Everything that disoriented me the first time, became a feature the second time. "The Red And The White" is one of the most fascinating and unconventional films I have ever seen.The story involves the attempts by both Red and White Russian armies to hold a monastery during the Russian Civil war. It is told through a series of seemingly simple tracking shots, long takes that pass gently and slowly over the endless Russian landscape. People pass through these frames, on horseback, running, walking, marching, some floating to their destiny -- some we recognize from previous shots but most we will never see again.Most conventional narrative begins with a point-of-view -- a decription of an event, made relevant by the personal drama of one of the participants. Jansco avoids this almost entirely by using his long takes and graceful tracking shots to capture a geography within which these events occur. How we interpret the actions of those we see is up to us. We aren't participating, simply observing.There is drama, but not in the conventional sense. Instead of the standard scripted conversations, we hear snippets of arguments: nurses who refuse to seperate their patients by army; a Hungarian who refuses to shoot prisoners; a General organising a massacre. If it wasn't for the flawless tracking shots and perfectly timed framing, I would think it was a documentary. In this world the camera seems indifferent to it's subjects, as if simply recording a series of events. The deaths of hundreds don't appear to be any more significant in the frame than the landscape itself; they are just faces who pass us by. Some of them (the soldier who captures the horse; the nurse who is trapped into cooperating, the soldier who leaps to his death in a masterful -- and rare -- moment of editing), we recognise. But we don't know them. None of them have names. While people in the foreground stand waiting for their fate to be decided, a hundred soldiers march across a distant hill, the cavalry charges, gunfire is heard; our attention is distracted by the actions of distant figures. When we look back to the forground the people are gone.We don't know them, we will never see them again. But now Jansco's cold hearted camera has made us a witness.It didn't occur to me until days later, but this is probably what a UN Observer feels like."
Vast and breathtaking
Stephen Taylor | Chapel Hill, North Carolina | 02/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like Ingmar Bergman's amazing film "Shame" (produced in the same year as "The Red and the White", 1968), Miklos Jancso's masterpiece evokes the vast and breathtaking panaroma of civil war on a small scale. No crashing, thundering armies here, and no heroes -- just murder on both sides. No plot really, no easy resolution, no ideology -- just the tension and menace of a venomous snake uncoiling in the sun.
At the center of the movie is a group of Hungarian volunteers who have come to Russia to fight for the Bolsheviks, either in 1919 or 1920. Caught in an abandoned monastery by a battalion of the counter-revolutionary, pro-Tsarist White Army, the Hungarians are let loose, in an apparent gesture of mercy, then hunted down while they scramble along the banks of the Volga futilely trying to escape. No mercy is shown to anyone on either side. Some of the Hungarians eventually meet up with a Red Army battalion, which is wiped out in a quixotic, unforgettable mini-battle against the Whites along the river. From beginning to end, Jancso squeezes every last drop of "beauty" out of war. Moreover, his refusal to romanticize the Bolshevik struggle in the Russian Revolution led to this film being banned by the Soviets for years.
Visually, "The Red and the White" is absolute eye candy. Jancso's genius, like Bergman's, is that he recognized the value of silence. As E.E. Cummings put it, "Nothing can surpass the mystery of stillness." There are whole scenes of this movie where the crickets and the grass say more than the people involved. And arguably, the Volga is a major figure in the film, too, the spectacular and flowing symbol of Mother Russia, a snake more lasting than violence and one that will outlive every blood-letting combatant fighting along her banks.
A dreamy and labyrinthine masterpiece. Get it. Five stars."
The Most Important Hungarian Film Ever!
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 01/10/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In a very famous episode of "Seinfeld" Jerry tells Elaine the original title for Tolstoy's "War and Peace" was "War. What is it good for"?
I don't know if there's any truth to that but that could have been the working title for Miklos Jancso's "The Red and the White".
As we watch this film don't be surprised if you have no clue what side the characters are on. Normally that would be a flaw in a film. If we don't understand who the characters are, we can't follow the story. But in this film's case, that's exactly the point. We aren't suppose to know who these characters are. Actually I don't think we ever come to know any of these characters names.
But what makes "The Red and the White" the most important Hungarian film ever made? Much has to do with the time it was made and the film's message.
I don't want to bore you here with a historical and political lecture on the history of Hungary but I suppose some background information is needed.
The film was made in 1967, 11 years after the Hungarian Revolution between the Hungarians and the Soviet Union. If that wasn't enough, the film was shot in the Soviet Union! Try to think about the significance of that. Here is a film that deals with Soviets, Communism and Hungarians! The blood was still fresh on the wall from what happened in '56!
Most people should know the plot behind the film. This is one of the better known Hungarian films and is fairly accessible. Still, I'll give a brief run-down of the plot.
The film takes place in 1919. We are in the middle of a war between the reds (the Bolsheviks') and the whites (Czarists) as the Hungarians have volunteered to aid the Bolsheviks.
As I mentioned earlier we never really know who is on what side. And ultimately that's the message behind the film. War is a senseless confusing act. In Woody Allen's film "Love and Death" Allen's character describes war as the following.."we kill a few Frenchmen, they kill a few Russians and before you know it, it's Easter." Something about war just doesn't seem logical and rational.
But how does Jancso get this point across? It's very interesting what he does with the camera. Pay close attention and you'll notice the camera is never giving us a particular character's POV (point of view).
The camera takes a non-bias stance. It remains on the outside of the action. It is merely an observer, like us. Because of this we can't readily identify with anyone. We never really get close enough to any character or situation long enough to firmly grasp what is really going on.
It must have been a pretty bold statement Miklos Jancso was making at the time. Especially when you put the film in its historical context. I wonder what the reaction was like in Hungary during the film's release. I know just within my own family it stirs strong emotions. I must have seen this film 10 or 15 times (but who's counting anyway). It's my father's favorite movie.
Jancso usually pushed the envelope in his films. They make very bold political statements. In some ways I can see "Hungarian Rhapsody" being played on the same bill as this movie. If you're interested try to make a double feature night for yourself.
Here is a film that is truly unforgettable, bold and powerful. It doesn't back down. For political and social reasons it is the most important Hungarian film ever made (realize though I'm not saying "the best"). And perhaps Miklos Jancso best.
Bottom-line: Powerful anti-war film that is the single most important Hungarian film ever made!
Excellent Portrayal of War as Madness
Oslo Jargo | FINLAND | 12/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a beautifully shot and sparse film that is filled with long takes reminiscent of the Russian Tarkovsky. The topic deals with the Russian revolution and the madness it spawned in warfare, namely from the Hungarian point of view, whose volunteers numbered some 48,000. It is difficult to understand what motived each character, for people are shot indiscriminately, they are freed in just the same manner and that is the nature of battle in this intense artistic film. The ending is one of the most cinematic moments ever, for those looking for a film with battles, this is not it, it's more visual.....