Saturday, 26 July 2014

the door (w&d istván szabó, w. andrea vészits)

Szabó's film is a curio. It seems to be keeping with Cinemateca's penchant for screening the new films of old masters, preferably with a famous name attached. This may reflect a laudable ethos or it may be slightly cynical. What it does ensure is a succession of strangely off-key offerings which have the faintly tarnished feel of visiting an elderly relation whose best days are clearly behind them. There may be flashes of what once might have been, but on the whole it makes for an unsatisfactory experience, like being offered stale biscuits and weak coffee. 

Szabó's film is constructed around an engaging story, as Hungarian writer, Magda, befriends the curmudgeonly Emerenc, played with full frontal acerbicness by Helen Mirren. Emerenc has secrets. Her waspishness appeals to Magda, and there's the suggestion that it helps the younger woman come to terms with herself, as wife, woman and writer. However, there's no real sense of dramatic tension. The film is set in 60s Budapest but all the characters speak a clearly-dubbed English. The camera work is conservative, straight out of a TV drama. Perhaps most gallingly of all, given the director's former achievements, we don't really get any sense of the world of 60s Budapest. Everything feels so tightly budgeted that it's reduced to relative anonymity. A chamber piece which lacks the intensity required to make a chamber piece feel either relevant or compelling.

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