One refreshing thing that has been happening recently in the local film industry is an embrace of more genre-influenced film-making. Hungarian film is traditionally known for its ponderous, art-house fare, exemplified perhaps by the highly regarded films of Béla Tarr. But a younger generation of filmmakers who have been influenced by more commercial releases are applying their strong knowledge of craft to creating films that have broader commercial appeal. We are thinking of recent films like White God, Blossom Valley, and Strangled, all of which were stylish Hungarian films that found audiences in Hungary and abroad.
The latest offering in this category is a Hungarian film called X - the eXploited, by writer-director Károly Ujj Mészáros. A crime thriller, it has been shown at multiple international film festivals, including the Chicago Film Festival. The film’s promise was recently validated when it won the Volkswagen Financial Services Film Award at the 32nd Braunschweig International Film Festival, which includes a 10,000 euro prize sponsored by the automaker.
The jury had this to say about the film: “‘X - The eXploited’ convinces with an extremely dense, always surprising arc of tension, realised with great attention to detail. Original pictorial symbolism perfectly stages the consistently strong, character-rich ensemble around the traumatised policewoman Eva. Secret services from the communist past, which have gone into hiding, once again create fear and terror against the background of the current conflicts about a democratic future. The gloomy style is thus anything but a decorative end in itself but is the causal driver of history.”
A writer at the Chicago Film Festival summarized the film’s plot nicely: “The highly anticipated second feature from the director of the 2015 box office hit Liza, the Fox Fairy is an intense and stylish crime drama that evokes the unsettled legacy of Hungary’s Communist past. Personal traumas rise to surface as a murder mystery unfolds in present-day Budapest, where talented investigative detective Éva must overcome her panic attacks in order to save her country—and herself.” Cineuropa called the film a ‘pure genre film’ before praising it for its story’s effectiveness and the potential for the director.
The writer/director, Ujj Mészáros, has already been widely lauded for his previous film, Lisa the Fox-Fairy, which was shown internationally, including earning a prize spot in the Cinéfondation section of the Cannes Film Festival. According to the Hungarian National Film Fund site, the director’s 10 short films have won 12 prizes at more than 30 national and international festivals.
Whether this new commercial direction is good or bad is up to your taste. But that Hungary has feet in both camps speaks a lot to its dynamic local film-making industry.
Below find the Hungarian language trailer for X - the eXploited with English subtitles.