Arpad Sopsits (director)
Montage Pictures (studio)
06 February 2018 (released)
06 February 2018
Disturbing, politically complex, and based on true events: Árpád Sopsits’ bleak thriller won 9 Hungarian film awards and re-opens history in more ways than just one.
The story is based in post-war Hungary, in the provincial town of Martfü to be precise, and it was there where a series of brutal killings took place, known as the Martfü murders in which six young women were killed between 1957 and 1967. When a young woman is found naked in a pond, brutally strangled and possibly killed beforehand with a blunt instrument, the fingers point at Réti (Gábor Jászberényi), a somewhat confused man who happened to be in love with the victim and who obviously couldn’t take her ‘No’ for an answer. The case seems pretty straightforward given the fact that Réti even confessed to the killing, though we don’t know whether his confession came from him or whether he was forced into it by the police. After all, it is 1957 and the Hungarian Revolution (a nationwide revolt against the Government and Soviet-imposed policies) just came to an end the previous year. After the suppression of the 1956 uprising the authorities have to prove that they still are at the top when it comes to enforcing law and order and what better way to prove this than sending a suspected culprit to prison. For local cop Bóta (Zsolt Anger) the case is closed.
Years pass but suddenly women are murdered again and the killings bear similar trademarks to the Réti case… who still is in prison. Enter new prosecutor Szirmai (Péter Bárnai), an eager young man not easily intimidated and hell-bent on finding the real murderer… This, however, proves to be more difficult than assumed because the killer does have a knack for slipping through the maze of possible suspects. Also, Szirmai faces opposition from his superiors and other certain individuals in the ‘Force’ who aren’t keen on admitting that they possibly got things wrong (on purpose or not) the first time round. Bòta never really believed in Réti’s guilt to begin with and helping (initially at least) Szirmai with his investigations is his atonement so to speak. Other than that, Bóta is romantically interested in Réti’s loyal sister Rita (Szofia Szamosi). Several murders on and with still no clue as to the identification of the killer, until a local shoe factory worker tells Szamosi and Bogna about something that eventually leads them onto the right track…
There is plenty of tension and even the occasional action while at the same time, the film offers insight into the political complexities (not to mention corruption) of Hungary during the late 1950’s up to the mid-60’s. The performances are believable and the camerawork further emphasizes the bleakness of domestic life during that time. It’s a real shame that the subtitles are in American-English (and also American slang) as it distracts from the cultural feel of the film’s country of origin – in this case Hungary.