Heroes of the Millennium

in 10th Geneva International Film Festival

by Géza Csákvári

Ticket inspectors. Nobody likes them around the world, nobody wants to meet them – even if they have a ticket. A perfect subject for an ironic, darkly comic noirish thriller: writer-director Nimród Antal has found the Eastern-European (anti)heroes of the millenium.

His stunning debut film, the mixture of dark comedy and surreal thriller, Kontroll is set in the Budapest subway system. This mysterious world is of course fictional. But to be on the safe side the film includes an introduction by Botond Aba, the director of the Budapest Public Transportation Company, who says, that the audience should realize, that the film is a work of fiction and that employees of the Metro don’t behave as shown.

The main character, Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi), is a leader of the group of ticket inspectors, who has escaped from the consumer society of the surface, actually he is living in the subway. But this underworld is not a place for a modern hermit. Bulcsú has to face a hooded serial killer, a whipped cream-spraying stowaway, a girl dressed as a teddy bear (who actually steals his heart), a ragtag crew of other metro ticket inspectors and a bunch of fare-jumpers. As Bulcsú – the archetypal man with a past, both inside the system and apart from it – ventures further into the heart of darkness, the film takes on a near-allegorical tone, becoming a struggle between good and evil. And sooner or later Bulcsú has to realize, that this subway world is not different from the upper one. He has to find an exit. The only one which gives him salvation.

Antal’s strongest point is the atmosphere, creating his own subjective universe. Beside this, the most important thing about Kontroll is that follows the great tradition of the Hungarian filmmaking – the pessimistic voice and artistic approach to the subject – but its also differs, with its new entertaining style. The director is assertively using the instruments of the off-the-wall comedies and the top Hollywood action movies. Kontroll is a perfect mixture of seriousness and lightness, with a giddy Faustian twist. Again, a film which has to be seen more than once.

Géza Csákvári