Thursday, 3 December 2015

Red Psalm

Még kér a nép; drama, Hungary, 1972; D: Miklós Jancsó, S: Andrea Drahota, József Madaras, Gyöngyi Bürös, Erzsi Cserhalmi, Ilona Gurnik

Hungary towards the end of the 19th century. Peasants start a rebellion against the government exploatation, ranging from too low wheat prices up to a 16-hour work day. They strike and walk around the meadow, protesting and chanting for a socialist revolution, while the government officials keep mounting officers who keep telling them to stop. The officers surround the villagers, and shoot them. However, one woman takes a pistol and shoots all the officers afterwards.

One of the most famous films by director Miklos Jacso, "Red Psalm" is a very strained and artificial film essay, and the viewer's impressions will be the same, accordingly. The entire film is directed in only 28 cuts, playing out on the meadow where the peasants dance and protests against injustice, but since it is also partly a propaganda film, it is deliberately set as unreal, almost like a Godard picture - except without the all the dazzling film innovations - and the viewers never identify with the endless array of nameless characters who come and go, without anyone of them taking on the lead role, whereas the long takes are not that impressive as some would make you want to believe. One example is the scene where topless girls carry a pigeon in their hands, the camera pans towards the left, an officer shoots at them, and then the camera returns back to show a girl raising her hand covered in blood: since she makes no expression on her face, not even a smallest hint at pain, but just continues walking like a robot, as if nothing happened, it all seems contrived. A few moments of inspiration manage to "twitch" the film from its mechanical mood, such as the semi-comical socialist version of Our Father prayer ("Our Father, whom you will be in form of a president, hallowed be your name. Socialism, your kingdom come, at us, and on the world. People, let there be your will, give us our daily tax reduction on bread...") or the radical scene where the socialist peasants lock up a priest and put the church on fire. "Red Psalm" has a few strong moments, but seems dated today, since more emphasis was put on the propaganda than on art, characters or storyline.

Grade;++

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