Fényes szelek | The Confrontation
DIRECTOR: Miklós Jancsó | WRITER: Gyula Hernádi, Miklós Jancsó | CAST: Lajos Balázsovits, Andrea Drahota, András Kozák, József Madaras, András Bálint | Hungary
I’m not all that crazy about Fényes szelek, Miklós Jancsó’s first color film, which comes across to me as sort of an unsuccessful trial run for his next film, Még kér a nép. Although the film was shot in the wide-screen 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio of his earlier B&W masterpieces, Jancsó’s pictorial compositions in color are not as exacting, the choreography of camera and actors is rough and approximate to the point of looking haphazard, and because the film was mostly shot outdoors using available light, there’s an unbalanced, unfinished feeling to it; it’s almost as if Jancsó and his cinematographer hadn’t worked out what they wanted to do with color and were thrown off their game.
Fényes szelek is a schematic retelling of the Communization of Hungary in 1947: a band of revolutionary students take over a conservative Catholic school and attempt over the span of a day to win these students over to the Communist side while the police nervously stand by, occasionally and ineffectively trying to maintain order. The characters are types, the dialogue is larded with raw political sloganeering, and the students abruptly and spontaneously break out into revolutionary songs and Hungarian folk dances at the drop of a hat. This kind of thing worked a lot better in Még kér a nép; here it looks forced and clumsy, amateurish even, and the Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt that I assume was Jancsó’s goal backfires. A number of the actors do manage to stand out, though, chief among them Lajos Balázskovits as the revolutionary students’ original leader, who steps down when he starts to doubt the Revolution; Andrea Drahota as the fiery and doctrinaire extremist who takes his place and at the height of the purge that she initiates is herself purged — because, she’s told, she’s acting just like the Nazis; András Bálint as a Jewish student who survived the war in hiding and has had enough of politics and just wants to study. I guess Fényes szelek is really only for the Jancsó completist, which I guess I’m in danger of becoming in fact if not by intention.