by György Báron
“It happened one night” – this could be the subtitle of Bence Miklauzic’s first feature, The Sleepwakers. Miklauzic belongs to the young generation of Hungarian filmmakers that appeared in the last three years with such gifted and widely acclaimed debut films as Hukkle (György Palfi), Forrest (Benedek Fliegauf) and Pleasant Days (Kornel Mundruczo).
The Sleepwakers starts in a realistic mood, but as time passes and we intrude in the depth of the night, it turns into a fairy tale full of miracles. Miklauzic tells the story of three persons who sometimes cross by chance during the night, then their ways separate – until they finally meet in the small cell of a local police station. What they have in common is their inability to adapt to the challenges of the brave new world, of the super-modern times. Sándor, the middle-aged office clerk is fired for not being merciless and cruel enough with the debtors of the company. The young Anna is also fired that evening. She works as a cigarette promoter in a night club but she is not able to smile during the whole night. Gábor, a young electrician, is the strangest of them. That evening he suffers an electric shock that changes him: From that moment on he’s searching for the lost electricity everywhere in the city and finds that he has a miraculous connection with energy and light.
The Sleepwakers is a warm-hearted modern fairy tale about the losers of the changes in Eastern Europe. The spirit, the approach and the characters remind us of classic silent comedies: the heroes face a hostile world, they’re constantly losing but they never are defeated. The final release of our protagonists can also remind us of the fabulous closing scene of de Sica’s Miracle in Milan. “Miracle in Budapest” – yes, this could also be a good subtitle for this film.
© FIPRESCI 2003