Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The romance of a Budapest subway

Kontroll (2003) is an interesting film from Hungary that I saw tonight. The entire movie is set in various subway stations and lines below the city of Budapest as it follows a group of lowly ticket checkers as they attempt to check passengers for subway tickets. This is possibly the worst job in Budapest as they are yelled at, spit on, harassed, physically attacked or ignored (compared to what might happen, being ignored is the easiest on the workers).

Written and directed by Nimrod Antal, Kontroll is a lot of things at once--it's dark, it's romantic, it's a bit sad, it's got funny bits. The one thing that runs through it from start to finish is the chaotic atmosphere of the subway, all eerie artificial lights, dirty floors and oddballs who do not want to pay for a ticket to ride.

My favorite elements of Kontroll were some of the less serious ones. Particularly the romantic story between a pretty woman dressed in a pink bear suit and one of the ticket checkers who is clearly dropped to rock bottom on this job. She's sweet (gives up her seat on the subway to the elderly), she's feisty (fights off 4 ticket takers at once) and she seems to like the brooding Bulcsu despite the fact he's always a bit bloody from his subway shenanigans.

I've always wanted to meet a woman on a train or in the subway and fall in love with them. Not a bus for love or jet airplanes for me. Trains and subways. Rail travel. When I lived in London or New York--nothing. When I traveled by Amtrak across the United States multiple times--nothing. Being underground or below ground in various places in Europe--did not happen.
I refuse to give up hope though, losing hope would weaken my claims for being a "romantic". So, naturally, I took to the romantic story of Kontroll like a fish to water.

I really liked this film. Helping my enjoyment is the fact I've spent a few months in Budapest and have spent hours upon hours in the subway. I've skirted away from the arm-band wearing checkers when I haven't paid my fare. I've pulled the ol' "oops, I should be going the other way" strategy to avoid being caught. I even tried the "I don't speak Magyar" that is shown in the movie to get out of a ticket. These people are not popular but I didn't realize the level of public disdain until watching Kontroll.

Kontroll is a dark, romantic film with a pulsing score and energy that should be the start of an interesting young director's career and gives me hope I'll meet some woman dressed in a bear suit I can fall in love with.


Anonymous said...

Great review, but while I haven't seen Fantastic Four I have to disagree w/you regarding Ioan Gruffudd. I just watched him in Great Expectations w/Charlotte Rampling and I know him from the Horatio Hornblower series and he's not a bad actor, though I could be a bit swayed by his pretty face. It looks like he's gone the route of many British actors and has gone to Hollywood to sell their little actor souls. Nicole

Replicant said...

never seen him in anything else but i'll blame the bad writing he was forced to deliver in fantastic four.

the hidden staircase said...

this film seems interesting. you know i dream of filming a movie in the london underground...but now, not sure if that'd be possible with what's happened. nyc subway would be good too...

ps think those other comments ended up on the wrong film!

Replicant said...

i love the ny subway but i'd set a film there in the summer and call it "hot urine" for the odor that exists down there.