Archive for October, 2011

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Kontroll

October 22, 2011


Admittedly, being introduced to this movie was one of the mitigating factors of a crazy ex—I wouldn’t have discovered this marvelous film in any other way, given its native language is in Hungarian, something she was intensely devoted to. My picks in the realm of foreign movies are few and far between; not because I have any problems with subtitles (I know some people just cannot stand them) but because I’m not exposed to them very often. All personal oddities aside, Kontroll is a fantastic story from first-time director/writer Nimrod Antal, who would unfortunately go on to merely direct a few forgettable American flicks like Armored and Predators. I hope he gets to flaunt his creativity more often in the future, because this movie is unlike anything you’ve ever seen—mainly because of the Hungarian subway system

The story takes place entirely underground, in the bowels of a Hungarian Metro line. It is here that the system is dependent not on Metrocard swipes, but a task force of ticket-inspectors who are widely reviled and disrespected by the underlings who rocket to and fro their daily motions.  The company is beside itself in striving to handle the reckless mobs aboard the trains, and hold meetings akin to war rooms—especially now that a mysterious chain of suicides is growing in number every week. Our main protagonist, Bulcsu (BULL-chu) used to be a man of some worth back on “the surface,” but no more. He eats, sleeps,and works in the Metro station hubworld, wandering the lonely tunnel network each night as the service slows and the tension of his workday comes to a dimly-lit death. And it’s in the gloom of Bulcsu’s routine that confines us to the sickly green glow of this winding, arterial world of dirtywhite fluorescence and flat colors. Antal did a fine job communicating the feeling of a hopeless existence lurking just underneath the city limits; this is clearly a place no one wants to be and it has already claimed the sanity of many a ticket inspector. The supporting characters who work alongside Bulcsu are quickly introduced but wane in their  appearances after the first half of the story, which is mainly an introduction to the bleak, dystopian realm of the Hungarian Metro.

The second half deals with Bulcsu’s waxing attitude towards his choice to lurk from the light, along with his continued dementia about a horrible stranger who seems always be present at the sites of the so-called “suicides.” It quickly becomes clear that these jumpers are actually being pushed into the oncoming trains, and Bulcsu is quickly listed as a suspect—because the villainous entity happens to wear clothing similar to Bulcsu.

Much of the film’s pacing is well-done because Antal knows exactly when to stop introducing us to the underworld and its very colorful characters, and when to press onward with the continuing disturbances therein, both inside and out Bulscu’s area of influence. A film set entirely in a metro hub of endless tunnels and stations could have easily become tired and trite, but luckily there are enough sidereels in this plotline to engage us, such as when Bulcsu agrees to a late-night “suicide run” on the tracks with a member of a rival inspector brigade, or his continued reconnaissance with a strange young woman in a bear costume who rides the lines for free.  The writing of the other players in general is very natural and there’s enough light comedy to fill the voids between major action. One of the funniest scenes occurs in the aftermath of a subway “leaper,” leading to a psychologist to evaluate the employees. The results are less than ideal, to say the least, leading to a montage of bizarre confessions not related to the tragedy in the slightest.

There are a few aesthetically demented scenes where Bulcsu’s dreams seem to weave in and out of a rave being held in the subway terminal (try to picture this in Penn Station.) that really made me scratch my head; though sudden, quick flashes of oddity are commonplace. One of the most striking things is the distinctive red facepaint the chief of police splashes over one eye; there is no explanation for this outlandish appearance, so we’re just to assume he’s a bad seed and he means business, especially in his interrogation scene with Bulcsu later on. It’s little details like that which permeate under the drip-drab depression and really leave an imprint on you.
I can’t say anymore about the character quirks or the very open-ended nature of what occurs in the endgame because it’s better seen than explained outright.  Bulcsu’s progression/regression begins as a sticky spot on your shoe which gradually becomes more and more noticeable up until the penultimate race against time—at which point we’re barefoot and exhausted.

I rate Kontroll very highly because I’ve yet to see a film like it—or at least one that comes close to achieving the same sense of despair and entrapment in the subway system, taking that pitted feeling and spreading it to the maximum level. The hubworld here is meant to be merely a passing location; a fleeting feeling of the dank and the dark. In Kontroll, it is a damning place, a kind of Tartarus one must usually inhabit in order to gain a greater sense of one’s internal flaws. At its climax, Kontroll delivers on this ethos—but not before granting us a glimpse into an abyss we traverse so easily on a very regular basis…at least, this is the case if you live in New York City. This movie is truly one-of-a-kind and I put it in my top 15, maybe even top 10 on a regular basis; truly worth the time to see.