Apa (Egy hit naplója) | Father: A Diary of Faith [1966]

7/10 | 13.Apr.12
Apa (Egy hit naplója) | Father: A Diary of Faith

DIRECTOR: István Szabó | WRITER: István Szabó | CAST: András Bálint, Miklós Gábor, Dániel Erdély, Kati Sólyom, Klári Tolnay, Zsuzsa Ráthonyi | Hungary

I’ve got mixed feelings about István Szabó as a director (I enjoyed Sunshine, enjoyed but less so Colonel Redl, and absolutely loathed Mephisto), so I wasn’t expecting much when I started watching his Apa (Egy hit naplója). Apa is a really, really good movie. The father of the title was perhaps a doctor who died suddenly just at the end of World War II when the main character, Takó, was a child too young to really remember him. The first half of the film focuses on Takó as an 8 or 9 year old obsessively mythologizing his father, making up heroic stories based on the little he remembers (three brief images) and the little he’s learned from his mother. In the second half, Takó (dreamy András Bálint) is in college and comes to the realization that he doesn’t really know his father at all.

Apa could have been sickly sentimental but it’s not. The stories Takó makes up about his father and tells to others are recreated in the film and are beautifully handled by Szabó, as is the rest of the film. In a standout scene, Takó and his girlfriend are extras in a movie; they’re in a crowd of “Jews” crossing a bridge under armed guard on their way to deportation to Auschwitz. Szabó beautifully underplays his hand in what could have been a grotesque bit of sentimental kitsch. Apa is a really, really good movie.

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