Freitag, 4. Oktober 2013

A nagy füzet

It's probably a culture thing, but the Hungarian WWII drama "A nagy füzet (The Notebook)", despite featuring the young, the elderly and the persecuted in numerous physically and emotionally extreme situations, feels strangely unrelatable and cold to the touch most of the time. The motives and change of minds of its characters are never directly dealt with but just put out there in a puzzling collage of whims, while plot-wise the movie can't seem to make up its mind on what it's about either. Just when you think it's an indictment of the (inexplicably) abusive child-rearing method of the grandmother and the toll it takes on the poor grandsons, the focus changes to the twin boys' incorrigible dependence on each other, their (inexplicably) random acts of cruelty, or their observations of the mad war. The ambivalent musical cues with recurring drum rolls also doesn't help.

Towards the end of the film, director János Szász did manage to tighten up the narrative and pin down the tone somewhat, signing off with a cryptic, slightly unsettling scent in the air that's unusual/refreshing for the genre. Lensed by Christian Berger, the movie often looks very pretty, with sun-bleached stone walls and fire-lit vapors making up some of its careful compositions. The art direction is also strong, evidenced above all by the meticulous recreation of the title-giving notebook, which tells a story all its own through the pedantic attention to details and that crazed, childish flourish.

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