Last week, I saw a recent Hungarian film called, in English, “Iszka’s Journey”. It was very heavy – a young, 12 year old girls is growing up in an abusive family in a backwater industrial town in eastern Hungary (Transylvania), crawling through the junk yard to find metal to sell to help her family (of course, the junk man cheats her, and her mother beats her, accusing her of stealing the money). She is removed from her town and taken to some sort of institution for kids in trouble, but her mother comes to retrieve her and she decides to go back to her family. Things don’t improve and she decides to run away to the beach (a long way from Transylvania) with a friend from the institution, a young boy who finds her and convinces her to leave with him. Before she goes, she wants to say good-bye to her very sick sister, which she does, but is unable to get back to her friend who has stowed away on a train and is waiting for her return. She hitches a ride with two men in a very fancy BMW, and before she knows it she finds herself, with a bunch of other (somewhat older) women on a ship, heading somewhere to, presumably, be sold into prostitution.
The film is very moving, even it contains a few things that don’t hold together, and quite heavy. The movie is one of a series of Hungarian films being shown on weekends at the National Gallery.
I had hoped to have a change of mood when I went to see “Die Verfehlung”, at the Goethe Institute Monday night. This film is part of a series of East German films made after the Wall came down, but before the two Germanys combined. Heavy again. East German woman meets (somewhat inexplicably) West German man. He a widower, she perhaps the same; she has two grown children, and no husband.
She lives in a small impoverished village; her sons live in Berlin. One of them is a journalist who works comfortably within the Communist system, the other a “radical”, part of a student protest movement, always on the verge of arrest. The brothers don’t get along. But Berlin is the only place where she and her newly found Hamburg-residing boyfriend can meet, but their future is certainly in doubt. She cannot leave the East; he does not want to leave the West.
But he decides that love trumps politics, and that he will move to the GDR, and they get engaged.
In her village, she works for the mayor, a moody, alcoholic, bullying man, who thinks that he and she would make the perfect couple. He “outs” the boyfriend, who is expelled from the GDR. He attacks his assistant on a very cold street, during a village festival. She lures him into his office with a promise to “act like an adult”. He follows her. She kills him. She is arrested and jailed.
Shortly after she is jailed, the Wall comes down, freedom of movement throughout the Germanys in possible, and her ever suffering fiance from Hamburg can now visit her – in prison.
Again, a moving, but imperfect film. The highlight was the actress who played the lead role, am East German actress named Angelica Domrose, who has apparently been a star in GDR films for decades.
Heavy, heavy, heavy.