Ildikó Enyedi arrived at the European art house cinema via experimental filmmaking; in her early short films she explored the possibilities of storytelling at Hungary’s Béla Balázs Studio. Since that time, as a screenwriter she spins her tales with complexity, often in an associative way. Narrative twists enrich her fairy-tale like stories that tend to link periods of time or different geographical spaces. In addition to her movies, she also demonstrates her interest in new narrative structures, such as those of television series that she once considered in an interview as the audiovisual revival of the nineteenth century novel.
Her international career began at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival where she won the Camera d’Or Award for her dream-like debut feature. Shot in black and white, “My 20th Century” includes probably the most emblematic sequence of her career; a hypnotic night scene that reconstructs the first public demonstration of Thomas Edison’s electric light bulbs on New Year’s Eve in 1879. In this mesmerizing sequence, the trees of New Jersey’s Menlo Park and the uniforms of musicians are all embellished with glowing string lights.
As well, with her later works, the Hungarian director entranced the juries of many A-list film festivals. 1999’s “Simon, the Magician” claimed the Don Quixote Award at Locarno International Film Festival. For her “On Body and Soul” she already has been awarded by FIPRESCI and got honored with the Golden Bear Award at the 2017 Berlinale, in addition to the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, then going on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
As a filmmaker, she is a careful observer of nature: there is in her movies a fine line between human and animal behavior. Her protagonists realize that they can take their cue from animals: they can learn to hibernate from bears, enact mating rituals from dogs, or establish strong bonds and create intimacy from reindeers.
Her simple, unornamented stories seem to deal with love triangles or the communication barriers that have to be overcome in a romantic relationship. However, beneath the surface her works open discussions about society and the history of civilization. Instead of sharp criticism, she rather makes thought-provoking observations. “My 20th Century” and “Magic Hunter” allude to the promises and the peril that scientific and technical achievements mean for human beings. Set in an abattoir, “On Body and Soul” calls attention to our overly regulated postmodern lifestyle. There is also plenty to admire about the technical craftsmanship of her films, and the way she creates a special atmosphere within exotic locations, such as a slaughterhouse, a mine or a performance field for illusionists.
Ildikó Enyedi is an internationally recognized cosmopolitan auteur who crosses borders while working with international casts and crews. She creates sensitive, affectionate and subtle movies from a female perspective, with joviality and a delicate sense of humor. In her films dreams often assist protagonists to solve their problems, similarly to miracles, another essential element in her oeuvre. It is remarkable that both are derived from the imagination of her characters, rather than from the transcendent.