Although this is the 8th Hungarian Film Festival, I had never thought much about Hungarian films. This is partially because the festival is on the other side of town, at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood and the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, but only partially. Hungary is producing some wonderful movies well worth seeing. These are in Hungarian with English subtitles.
Eszter's Inheritance (Eszter Hagyatéka): Written and directed by József Sipos, this 2008 movie begins with a woman in despair. This is in a golden distant past, before ballpoint pens. We know she has loved the wrong man and he has brought about a catastrophe, but we aren't sure at first what. She, Eszter (Eszter Nagy-Kálózy), is determined to write down how her one and only love returned after twenty years to totally ruin her. Lajos (Gyorgy Cserhalmi) courted Eszter, but married her sister. Now widowed, he will return with his two children, one of whom needs money and believes that Eszter somehow owes her. Based on a 1939 novel by Hungarian writer Sándor Márai, this movie is beautifully filmed and the cast move us into a tragic world where a middle-aged woman makes a romantic sacrifice in the name of a love that was and one that was not, during a time when a well-to-do woman had few choices except fate.
Opium (Egy Elmebeteg No Naplója): Like Eszter's Inheritance (also known as Esther's Inheritance), Opium is based on a book, but not a novel — an autobiographical book about a Lothario who used his doctor's license to procure both women and drugs, in this case morphine. Directed by Janos Szasz, the long title is Opium: Diary of a Madwoman. The movie begins with a view of the startlingly pale Gizella (Kirsti Stubo). Her platinum blonde white hair is cut short, almost mannish. She is underwater. Alive? Dead? It isn't clear at first. This is psychiatric treatment of a less enlightened age, where lobotomies are commonly practiced and this water therapy attempts to calm the prolific writing of Gizella and her hypersexuality. This 2007 movie, written from Géza Csáth's diaries with András Szekér writing the screenplay, won actor Stubo a best actress award at the 2007 Moscow International Film Festival. Csáth was the pen name of József Brenner (1887-1919) who was a medical doctor from 1909 and did supposedly suffer from writer's block in 1912 when he was a doctor at a Slovakian health spa. There he had sexual intercourse with many women, not all of it apparently consensual. He was a cad, misogynistic and without a conscience. He did eventually commit suicide. This movie is an absorbing account of the cruel practices of another era and of how the doctor cured his writer's block while supposedly curing a patient.