We gave it an A
Director Gyula Gazdag is known on the film festival circuit for his cynical slices of Hungarian life. But A Hungarian Fairy Tale is a dramatic departure. A lyrical odyssey in luminous black and white, it transports with its seamless weave of reverie and reality. Like Gazdag’s other films, this one is about people in an oppressive society. But for once the characters are not daunted or defeated. Instead they find escape — on the wings of a dream.
Set before the recent democratic thaw, the story centers on Andris (David Vermes), a young boy who is orphaned when fate strikes down his unmarried mother. En route to a children’s home, Andris takes off to find the father he has never known. But the man he’s searching for is just a made-up name on the record books; in this society, every child must have an officially registered father — even if the real father is unknown. Since Andris’ mother knew his father for only one enchanted evening, she had to invent his name for the books.
Andris’ adventure seems destined to end in sadness — but fate hasn’t finished with him yet. As he flees cross-country, encountering kindred spirits, he shakes off society’s shackles. Freedom becomes attainable, magic becomes possible, tragedy is transcended.
A Hungarian Fairy Tale’s exquisite imagery is intact on the small screen. So are most of the subtitles. And if occasionally a line of subtitle gets lost in a white background, it matters little. Gazdag’s beautifully bittersweet emotions speak a universal language. A