Sunday, July 24, 2011

EU 2011 - Chart 2

BIFF Reviews Working Document

EU Film Festival 2011 – Chart 2: Sunday and Monday, July 24-25 – Prepared by Thomas Ohlson

At Vista Theaters, 4th Floor, Kadsuankaew, Chiang Mai


Sunday, July 24, 2011




Title / Original Title / Country / Category / Director / Length / Festival Synopsis

Comments / Reviews

11 AM



The Magic Tree (2009)


Original Title: Magiczne drzewo

Country : POLAND

Category : Adventure

Director : Andrzej Maleszka

Principal Cast : Agnieszka Grochowska, Andrzej Chyra, Hanna Śleszyńska

Length : 1 hr 30 min


Once upon a time, there was a magic tree – a huge, old oak-tree. Not aware of its power, people cut it down and made hundreds of objects out of its wood. The wood kept its magic power and the objects made strange things happen after arriving in shops around the world.

Polish Film Festival in America: When the magic tree in Andrzej Maleszka's Magic Tree is struck by lightning, the locals chop it into pieces to be made into furniture and sold all over the world. Now, the magic in the tree has been spread throughout every piece, causing strange events to unfold all over the world. One day, three children - Tosia, Philip, and Kuki - find a chair made from the tree that will make any dream come true. Stuck with their mean aunt while the kids' parents are away on work, the children decide to use the chair to find their parents. With a little bit of magic to help them deal with their aunt, the children set off on a wild adventure that also includes escaping those who want the chair's power for themselves. Filled with imagination and fun adventure, this film is sure to amaze kids and parents alike.


The film is loosely developed from the 2007 International Emmy Award-winning live-action TV series of the same name that aired on Telewizja Polska from 2004 to 2006.


Exciting trailer:


12:40 PM



The 1000 Euros Generation (2009)

Original Title: Generazione 1000 euro

Country : ITALY

Category : Comedy

Director : Massimo Venier

Principal Cast : Valentina Lodovini, Carolina Crescentini, Alessandro Tiberi

Length : 1 hr 41 mins


30 year-old university graduate Matteo works in marketing at a company that is being "reorganised". The arrivals of a new colleague, Angelica, and a new housemate, Beatrice, lead to an endless series of trials and tribulations. Faced with major new developments, Matteo changes his life in a short period of time.

For a trailer (Italian) check out

Film Ink: Apparently there is a worldwide phenomenon of mid twenties to mid thirty-somethings, starting their lives on a career path, earning just enough money to pay rent, buy the odd meal out, take occasional overseas trips - and hating every minute of it. 1000 Euro Generation, based on the book of the same name, refers to this group, making just 1000 Euro a month and desperately missing their student days when they could sleep in and didn't have to wear a suit.

In this particular study of one group of Italian youngsters, Matteo (Tiberi) lives with his best friend (Mandelli). Together they struggle to pay the rent on their falling apart apartment, working jobs that neither is passionate about. When Matteo starts to find success in his boring day job in a marketing firm, he is lured in by the trappings of international flights and expensive hotels, leaving behind his friend, his dream of being a mathematician and budding romance with new flatmate, Beatrice (Lodovini).

There's nothing groundbreaking about this film but there's nothing to complain about either. It's funny, captivating, the performances are engaging, it's light-hearted and is real enough to seem like a true insight into this age group and their sincere life dilemmas. The biggest praise can be laid at the feet of rising star Valentina Lodovini, who's absolutely radiant on screen, and adept at comedy and drama. 


2:35 PM



Camino (2008)

Country : SPAIN

Category : Drama

Writer/Director : Javier Fesser

Principal Cast : Nerea Camacho, Carme Elias, Mariano Venancio

Length : 2 hrs 18 mins


A brilliant eleven-year-old girl must simultaneously face two completely new events in her life – falling in love and dying. Camino is a bright light that manages to shine through every one of the dark doors that try to stifle her desire to live, love and seek ultimate happiness. Inspired by real events.


Here are some clips. Warning: do not watch unless you’re prepared to be disturbed.


Urban Cinefile synopsis: Camino (Nerea Camacho) is a bouncy 11 year old girl whose happy, God-focused life in Madrid is spent between her religious school and a home dominated by her pious but authoritarian mother, Gloria (Carme Elias). Her family are members of Opus Dei, the controversial Catholic organization founded by Spain's recently-canonized Jose Maria Escriva. Camino falls in platonic love with Cuco (Lucas Manzano) at a school theatre group. But young love is thwarted when the back pains that have been troubling her turn out to have a serious origin - and she is forced to undergo a barrage of tests, operations and radiation therapy sessions that eventually leave her bedridden, immobilized and blind. Camino's older sister Nuria (Velles), meanwhile, is living as a novitiate in an Opus Dei house. Only Camino's father, Jose (Mariano Venancio), gives her pure affection untainted by religious dogma.


Urban Cinefile, Review by Andrew L. Urban:

The oddly perverse lives that are twisted out of shape by the extremes of Christian belief systems are sometimes the stuff of which saints are made, and young Camino's is such a life. Unintentionally satirical and brutally so for its matter of fact portrayal of the least humane aspects of the Opus Dei, Camino is dedicated to and inspired by the life and death young Alexia Gonzales (currently being considered for sainthood). It has enthralled Spanish audiences and critics. I'm not sure it has the same impact elsewhere, where its flaws may be magnified by the psychological and cultural distances. It has quite a few flaws, but also much to recommend it.

Nerea Camacho is a pretty young actress who gives a mostly first class performance (except when she is allowed to register special interest by widening her eyes in a hammy attempt at facial acting). Her most moving and powerful scenes are also the most traumatic; there are many of them.

Carme Elias is formidable as Gloria (what else), the pious mother whose excessive idea of faith in Jesus has so blinded her that she is risible in her willingness to let her daughter suffer because that's what Jesus wants. She doesn't ever ask herself why Jesus would want to do such an evil thing to a girl who is so devoted to him. Camino, finally does ask, though. All Gloria can do is endlessly thank God for her daughter's illness, because it gives them all a chance to really, really prove they love Him by offering up all their agonies to Him.

It's only Camino's father, Jose, subtly played by Mariano Venancio, who can see through the hollow piety to the human tragedy - though he is too weak to do much about the situation. And God has even more plans for this family to show its absolute faith in him.

As if these themes needed it, a heavy handed, weeping strings-infested score exaggerates the spiritual tone so that we are in cathedral mode pretty much all the way - which is a long time at 143 minutes, in what is essentially a one-note drama. You'll have to excuse the excessively long and schmaltzy ending, too, followed by a contrived coda. Don't mind me, though, I'm a fallen angel.

Urban Cinefile, Review by Louise Keller:

Winner of 6 Goya Awards, this beautifully crafted but disturbing film tells its story about faith, love and death with claustrophobic potency. It’s a heartbreaking story whose elements often make us feel as though a knife has been thrust in our chest and twisted. Based on a true story, director Javier Fesser has written a complex and multi-layered screenplay about an eleven year old girl from an overtly religious family who displays saintly selflessness and faith in God as she suffers from a fatal illness. The film is like no other, but there are some parallels with The Magdalene Sisters in that it displays the iron fist that fanatic Catholicism promotes and also with Pan’s Labyrinth, in which fantasy is used as an escape from shocking reality. At the heart of the story is a beautiful flower by the name of Camino whose love and enthusiasm for life is infectious. There is no questioning the cinematic power of this film, although it must be said it is tough viewing with relentless distressing scenes and themes.

When the story begins, we meet Camino (Nerea Camacho) on her deathbed, surrounded by family and friends. The story then picks up five months earlier when we meet Camino as a beautiful, fun-loving school girl with a healthy attitude to life. Home life, as members of the Opus Dei, devoting themselves to God within their daily lives, is strict and filled with prayer. Her well-intentioned but misguided mother Gloria (Carme Elias) who loves her for all the wrong reasons, is the family’s driving force, “sowing the seeds” of the Christian home and instilling fanaticism (‘Never waste a chance to tell Him you love Him’). Guilt and faith are intertwined. When Camino chooses a children’s book called Mr Meebles, her mother insists on buying one about Saint Bernadette. It is reassuring that Camino’s father José (Mariano Venancio) loves her for all the right reasons and their relationship seems ‘normal’. Gloria has hopes for Camino that she follows in her sister Nuria’s (Manuela Vellés) footsteps in the church. Nuria, who once had the promise of a different life – with a handsome actor –now blinkered to her new life at the convent with God.

Camino’s hopes to join the school theatre group with Cuco (Lucas Manzano), the boy on whom she has a crush, die in an instant when she becomes ill. The two youngsters have an intangible connection, which is portrayed in a stunning fantasy sequence towards the film’s end. All the performances are extraordinary, especially Camacho as the angelic Camino, whose beauty and grace only seem to make the story even harder to bear. I can only assume that the graphic nature of the operation scenes has symbolic inference. There’s an affecting juxtaposition between the theatre where Cinderella is being played and the scene at the hospital which embodies the theatre of death. Many will find this film impossible to sit through; others will relate to its authenticity in its depiction of faith.


At the Movies: Camino swept away with six major categories at last year’s Goya Awards, the Spanish Oscars. It’s the work of writer/director Javier Fesser who states at the beginning that it’s based on real events.

14-year-old Camino is the younger daughter of Gloria and Jose. The family adheres to the strict teachings of Opus Dei, the extremely conservative organization within the Catholic Church. Their older daughter is already ensconced in an Opus Dei house where she is virtually a servant to the men who live there.

Camino is a lovely child, just on the verge of puberty and curious about the world outside her proscribed life. When she suddenly falls ill and the implications are serious, her faith and that of her family is tested. Camino has developed an innocent crush on a local boy and escapes from the confines of her hospital bed through her dreams and imagination.

This is a film that could provoke audiences from a number of directions. People critical of Opus Dei will find much to justify their view in the film. But people who have great faith will also find much to nourish them. Javier Fesser has been very clever. I’m not convinced by some of his techniques, particularly in the early part of the film, his almost besotted filming of his young star and the dream sequences work only sometimes.


Screen Fanatic: Where do you start with Javier Fesser’s Camino (2008), a film “inspired by true events”? By turns sensationalist, trivial, and deeply moving, it's open to a variety of equally valid interpretations. Is it a caustic indictment of organized religion? Or a tragic fable infused with magical realism? Or maybe just a disturbing depiction of parental manipulation gone mad?

Wobbling in and out of its narrative borders like a drunken sailor, the film details the last months of Camino Fernandez (Nerea Camacho), a young Spanish fifth-grader from Madrid whose sudden bouts of neck pain lead to the diagnosis of a tumor that soon mutates into a rare cancer. Her family is a devoutly religious one. Looming largest here is mother Gloria (Carme Elias), a seemingly sweet, loving woman superficially, but who may be harboring ulterior motives that are not exactly conducive to restoring her daughter’s health.

Camino’s father Jose (Mariano Venancio) is a caring, almost perfect, paternal figure, and a source of great comfort for her, but a man with a fatal flaw: he’s weak-willed, having seemingly forever bowed down to his wife’s wishes. This translates into little more than scant hollow words of advice and encouragement for Camino as her condition deteriorates, tangling her own faith in confusion as she tries to assimilate God’s motives with the ailment afflicting her failing body. Camino has an older sister, Nuria (Manuela Velles), who she rarely sees. The circumstances of Nuria’s strange life are only partially explained but it seems she left home at 18 to live in a home with numerous young people of her age. They are now effectually sequestered as “numeraries” in a regimented Pamplona household ruled by a branch of the Opus Dei sect of the Catholic Church.

Camino is a deeply unsettling film at times. A revelatory flashback is central to how audience allegiances will ultimately be swayed in one direction: Camino re-lives, through a dream, an episode from her childhood is which she awoke to find her mother cradling her dead baby brother, Gloria responding with a beatific smile that the child wanted to return home to Jesus. It’s a strikingly creepy moment, creating a lasting impression of a fervent religious devotion that borders on insanity.

What is most riling is the odious insistence of Camino’s mother that her illness is occurring because God loves her. When confronted with the debilitating strain her family has been placed under she returns serve with her steadfast proclamation of wishing to “thank Him every day for her daughter’s illness”, hoping eventually for an unlikely canonization, the ultimate reinforcement of her reverence and unwavering piousness. Almost as infuriating is Jose's failure to react and prevent Gloria's poisonous cloak of Godly justification from engulfing them all.

Moments of magical realism are often potently contrasted with the harmful levels of subtle constriction established by Gloria in her rule over the family. Camino’s dreams are often frightening, sometimes shedding distressing light on her present and past lives, but they can be freeing too, such as when a playful mouse - the one her mother forlornly attempts to snare in their pantry - and Mr. Meebles, a wise old sage from a secondhand book, enter the fray of her wild imagination.

Where Fesser’s visually polished film fails is in its handling of the wildly overlapping tones. Never settling into a consistent rhythm, Camino veers from trepidation to whimsy, and from austerity to absurdity at a second’s notice. The overall effect detracts from any cohesive, rational sense Fesser is aiming for in his re-imagining of this girl’s tragic final months of life.

This is especially true during the protracted final stage as Camino's final throes are intrinsically linked - almost supernaturally - to a school drama club's performance of Cinderella which she dreamed of being a part of. The ecclesiastical music is over-reaching to the point where you suspect the line between valid support and mockery is being breached.

The experience of watching Camino for all of its 140 minutes is likely to induce exultant joy and a smattering of teary moments. But what lingers most is the anger at the controversial means of propagating God’s divine will that Camino’s mother uses to enact some form of spiritual sanctification for her daughter in preference to saving her from maximum harm.

This is ultimately a compelling, and on some levels, daring film. It's an emotionally-charged one too, loaded with both wondrous and disturbing imagery. Forced into a final judgment, I’d have to classify it as a failure however, but there’s no disputing that it’s an intriguing, fascinating one, sure to provoke vigorous debate.



SBS, Australia: You would be hard pressed to find humor in a film whose central theme deals with child mortality but Javier Fesser’s Camino is a rare thing indeed. Though respectful and subdued when the story requires, Fesser’s ironic touch manages to extract humor from a dire situation and in the process, skewer organized religion and its propagation of false hope. ...

Fesser is unrelenting in exposing the contradiction and hypocrisy inherent in organized religion but he also wisely avoids shooting fish in a barrel. There’s an overwhelming reverence to this outrageously melodramatic piece that suggests Fesser is hedging his bets.  He’s not criticizing those whose faith provides comfort in times of crisis; only those who would seek to profit from that crisis and turn a young girl’s death into a PR vehicle for the Church.


IMDb viewer: Reading the above reviews, I find it somewhat surprising that almost no-one saw what I saw in this excellent movie.

What I saw was an expose' of the heartlessness of the Catholic Church (and I hasten to add that they are not alone).

I saw ambition among the clergy and the girl's mother, overriding their humaneness for this unfortunate girl.

I saw the philosophy of self denial taken to absurd extreme. Who is more deserving of flowers in her hospital room than a dying innocent eleven year old? Is mind control, sequestration, withholding of personal information, constant supervision and the encouragement to wear stones in ones shoes a way to prepare anyone for office anywhere in this day and age, let alone for the catholic church? I saw the Catholic Church manipulating the tragic events in order to "glorify" the church, and the individual clergy involved supporting this in order to enhance their own standing within the hierarchy.

Instead the movie tells us that Camino's dying thoughts were with Jesus, but not with the Jesus of Nazareth, which was the assertion of the clergy and no doubt the overriding factor in her subsequent beautification, ("the church needs more saints" says one clergyman), but with her prepubescent love of a boy of the same name.

I also saw the medical establishment questioned. A GP "No X-ray but an injection will settle it", A specialist when an X-ray is finally taken-"no problem here, she will be OK soon" - The surgeon on the second X-ray "This is serious must repair the vertebrae without delay", finally a scan "The tumor must be removed ASAP" - where a careful diagnosis would have possibly isolated the problem from the beginning and made the last months of Camino's life at least a little more pain free.

In all I found this a very bitter movie, it did not glorify the church but rather leveled serious criticism at it as it did the medical establishment.

Not a movie for the masses, not a movie that could come out of America but in my opinion one of the VERY BEST movies ever.

Warning, If light entertainment is your wish avoid this movie like the plague, but if you want your thought processes stimulated, do not miss it.


5:05 PM

The Paper Will Be Blue (2006)


Original Title: Hîrtia va fi albastrã

Country : ROMANIA

Category : Action/ Drama

Writer/ Director : Radu Muntean

Principal Cast : Paul Ipate, Adi Carauleanu, Dragos Bucur

Length : 1 hr 35 min


During the confused night of 22-23 December 1989 young militiaman Costi, eager to join the rebel forces, escapes from his unit. Captain Neagu assembles a patrol to hunt down the deserter, while nervous citizens watch history unfolding on their television sets. A gripping, taut rendition of the birth pangs of contemporary Romania.


Nominated for the 2006 Golden Leopard award at Locarno International Film Festival.


Trailer at:



Neil Young’s Film Lounge: Promising stuff, and executed with a certain technical skill, a real-time, you-are-there doggedness and a Bloody Sunday-style verisimilitude that may impress certain viewers. In the end, however, the atmosphere of laborious, grittily downbeat intensity – relieved by only the barest flecks of ironic humor – proves monotonously uninvolving, capturing all too well this long, long, dark, dark night of one nation's troubled soul.

Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: The December 1989 fall of Communist Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu sets the stage for co-writer/director Radu Muntean's wry action drama following one perplexed militia's attempt to find out just who has assumed control of Bucharest once the despised tyrant has fallen. Romanian despot Ceausescu has been overthrown by a combination of military coup and civil insurrection, and now Lt. Neagu (Adi Carauleanu) has been assigned the task of maintaining the peace in a small Bucharest suburb. When Lt. Neagu and his heavily armored militia squad hear news that pro-Ceausescu forces are attempting to wrestle control of a national television station away from anti-Ceausescu counterparts, ambitious militiaman Costi (Paul Ipgate) suggests that the troupe leave to help fend off the "terrorists" who would see the feared dictator reinstated. After Costi slips away from the militia to help defend the television station, he is recruited to help defend a house full of protestors from terrorists. Inexplicably, Costi himself is accused of terrorism by the very people he was attempting to help and is forced to convince the protestors of his democratic beliefs. Realizing that Costi has deserted the militia and frightened that he will be held responsible for losing his soldier, Lt. Neagu and his squad discover that their mission is far from over after arriving as Costi's suburban home. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi


IMDb viewer Dominic Ambrose: This is a film about one of the most iconic and fateful events of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the liberation of Romania in December, 1989. It was the most brutal confrontation of that historical period, and the one that is perhaps least understood. The film opens with a scene of senseless violence, a case of confusion and wild gunfire in the dawn hours of December 23, 1989. This serves as the context and creates the mood of panic, confusion and deadly danger of this film.

The film takes us inside an armored militia vehicle as it patrols the streets of Bucharest on the darkest night of revolution. The soldiers are confused, unsure of even the most basic truths about their job: Who are they protecting? What are they defending and who are they fighting? Who are they serving? What country is this? The soldiers have no idea, and they prefer not to think about it.

This is the story of revolution. What seems to us such heroic activity guided by higher ideals of liberty and justice, is often unimaginable confusion and wasteful carnage. The performances are very good, the characterizations low keyed and hemmed in, just as these soldiers are hemmed in by the circumstances they find themselves in. The dialog is terse and chattering, in nervous counterpoint to the deadly serious events. But the events are at times mercilessly confusing, and this tends to decrease the impact of some of the key scenes. Just because the characters are confused doesn't mean that the film viewers should be as well! This is especially true at the television station when it is quite difficult to tell which side the soldiers there are defending.

In general, the film is quite successful in that it brings the viewer into that time and place, and makes the madness come alive. I think there is room for further development of some of the characters, as there is so much irony in their predicament that is only obliquely alluded to. As for the ending, I was a bit disappointed that the filmmaker chose not to show the final scene that we are left to imagine. It seems like a choice of modesty that does not give full impact to the pathological nature of war.

6:40 PM

The Wedding Photographer (2009)


Original Title: Bröllopsfotografen

Country : SWEDEN

Category : Romantic Comedy

Writer/Director : Ulf Malmros

Principal Cast : Björn Starrin, Kjell Bergqvist, Tuva Novotny

Length : 1 hr 48 min


When the factory in his beloved hometown shuts down, Robin decides to try his luck in Stockholm as a wedding photographer. This experience changes not merely his outlook on life but also his hairstyle.


Trailer (Swedish only):

Producer: The movie is about Robin, a wedding photographer from a remote spot in Värmland. He’s commissioned to photograph an upper class wedding in Djursholm. He falls in love with the bride’s sister and goes through a makeover trying to fit into the posh world.


IMDb viewer: After watching Slim Susie and A Summer Tale, Ulf Malmros became one of my favourite Swedish film-makers. His ability to tell a good story with perfect pace and add unique characters to it is something you rarely see in Swedish productions. While Slim Susie was kind of a sick all-out comedy, A Summer Tale was more of a romantic drama with comedy-influences. I would say that Bröllopsfotografen/The Wedding Photographer reminds me of both.

Starting off in the small locality of Molkom, we get to follow the main character (Robin) in his regular day-life. The environment as well as the characters and the jokes here definitely feels a lot like taken from Slim Susie, hence I found myself laughing a lot. Robin then travels to Stockholm in order to become a professional photographer, and the best part of this movie is his first days there. The contrasts between the life in the locality and the life in the capital city of Stockholm illustrated by Malmros through Robin's character are pretty much brilliant, at least from a Swedish point of view.

When Robin starts to adapt to his new way of living, the message that Malmros wants to send gets clear. Although at this point, when things turn into more of a romantic drama, the film loses its pace a bit. On the other hand, the transition of Robin, from a typical locality-guy to the wannabe big-city brat, processes a bit too fast. You don't really get an idea of what made him change like he does.


Monday, July 25, 2011




Title / Original Title / Country / Category / Director / Length / Festival Synopsis

Comments / Reviews

3 PM



With Friends Like These (2007)


Original Title : Dagen zonder lief

Country : BELGIUM

Category : Comedy

Writer/Director : Felix van Groeningen

Principal Cast : Koen De Graeve, Wine Dierickx, Pieter Genard

Length : 1 hr 40 min


When Black Kelly gets back from New York after having lived there for some years, she discovers that not just her hair colour has changed. Friends have moved on while she was away and their lives get disturbed now that she is back. She soon realises that things will never be the same.

IMDb viewer: Everybody who went to college and had good friends there, or spent lots of careless time with wild and young companions, will be deeply affected by this film. Dagen Zonder Lief shows us in a glowing, slow burning way what we all know: nothing lasts forever, not even friendship. The wonderful characters in Dagen Zonder Lief were young together and had loads of fun, as the subtle flashbacks show us, but those days are over. One is married and has a little baby; another one left for New York; yet another one is about to enter the snobbish world of his snobbish girlfriend. There's still a spark when they meet, but that's it: just a spark. Not the burning fire of the old days. The suicide of one or their common friends and the inexplicable need to settle prevents them from truly reliving the old days. They hardly ever mention it, but you can see it in their every movement and expression.


IMDb viewer: Incredibly dull and pointless film with bad, self-consciously 'real' acting. It starts out with totally uninteresting scenes of one of the lead characters returning from New York - no character development, no interesting events... Just semi-documentary boredom. The acting is bad, the dialog is insipid, the storytelling non-existent... Top this off with puerile 'humour' and you have a truly losing combination. Endless 'conversations' about painting a garden shed, burping contests, and characters which are spectacularly uninteresting. Why make a film about how boring life is - and have that film be even more boring than real life?


Teaser (supposedly):


4:50 PM



The Hell of ’63 (2010)

Original Title: De hel van '63


Category : Sports/ Action

Writer/Director : Steven de Jong

Principal Cast : Chris Zeegers, Willeke van Amelrooy, Pierre Bokma

Length : 1 hr 48 mins


The Netherlands has many lakes and canals. In winter, when conditions are right, an infamous 200 km ice-skating race is held. This film is based on true facts of the racing day in 1963, when thousands of skaters suffered frostbite and shocking injuries. Only a small number would cross the finish line.


For a trailer (Dutch) check out

IMDb viewer: I was pleasantly surprised to see what a good movie Steven de Jong made of the events that took place on this day in 1963 when 10,000 people started an ice-skating tour that only 69 would bring to an end. The story brings four people together that have different reasons for taking part in the tour. The stories are nicely brought together. We also get a good feel of how harsh this tour was. The cinematography is on a high level and the music is great. I would recommend this to anyone who like to see a realistic fight for survival on the ice.


IMDb viewer: I enjoyed every minute of this icy ride about the world’s longest ice-skating tour. Director Steven de Jong has provided new hope for Dutch cinema by doing an excellent job. The 'elfstedentocht' (tour of eleven cities) van '63 was a unique and timeless event that deserved a great film like this and I am happy to have experienced this. This whole movie is just excellent and two points deserve special attention: The actors in this movie are very natural. And that just makes them and the movie as a whole much more convincing. The second great thing is the camera-work. To give some grandeur to this movie the camera often swings into great heights, crawls under the ice, and/or fades from a film-image to a map and vice-versa. The accompanying music creates effects not seen before in Dutch cinema. It really lifts this movie to another level and creates refreshing perspectives. Steven de Jong even portrayed the harsh element of wind in the form of luring icy animals. Something completely unexpected.

6:50 PM

Bánk bán (2002)

Country : HUNGARY

Category : Historical/ Music/ Opera/ Drama

Director : Csaba Káel

Principal Cast : Kolos Kováts, Eva Marton, Andrea Rost

Length : 1 hr 56 mins


In 13th century Hungary, King Endre II is fighting abroad while his German-born Queen plays host to the leading members of the Court, mostly foreigners, at prodigal feasts. The King's deputy, Bánk Bán tours the poverty-ridden country, while the Queen's younger brother tries to seduce Bánk's beautiful wife. A group of Hungarian nobles, anxious for the fate of their homeland and the honour of Bánk's wife, plot a conspiracy against the Queen.


Historical and musical note: Bánk bán is an opera in 3 Acts by composer Ferenc Erkel. The work uses a Hungarian language libretto by Banjámin Galambos which is based on a stage play of the same name by József Katona. (Bán is ban in English, similar to a viceroy, a duke, or palatine.) The main storyline is based on the assassination of Queen Gertrúd, wife of Andrew II in 1213. The opera was first performed at the Pesti Nemzeti Magyar Szinház, Budapest, on 9 March 1861.

IMDb viewer: The film figuratively comes off the screen with splendor and lyricism. As it is a rendition of the famous Hungarian medieval opera and photographed lovingly by Hungarian-American Vilmos Zsigmond, performed by Hungary's best operatic voices, a presentation of sumptuously beautiful landscape and classical architecture, "Bank ban" holds a tremendous treasure for the viewer. Images haunt one's unconsciousness long after the experience.

IMDb viewer: Fine example of how to film an opera!

Given the cinematographer of this movie, it's probably not surprising that the visuals are superb. The directing is also first-rate, not stagy at all, but still managing to leave plenty of room for the singing. Csaba Káel managed to combine some of the best parts of film and opera. We get both the intimate moments that film is capable of showing, and the grand majesty of the chorus singing amidst a splendor of costumes and sets. Special kudos to Andrea Rost for making full use of this opportunity to act out the small things; her Melinda is completely human, a rare feat for a character in an opera.

Overall, the costumes were good at evoking a feeling of time and place, without giving more than a cursory nod to period-correctness. This is probably good, because the music itself is firmly planted in 19th century romanticism; true 12th century costuming would have felt wrong.

Overall, the film is quite satisfying. The setting looks real (probably because, apart from one small interior, it was all filmed on location), the plot is nicely developed and explained, the roles are all well-cast, well-sung, and well-acted (there wasn't a ham in the bunch, which is a minor miracle), the special effects flow perfectly, and the music is gorgeous..

Filming note: Almost ninety per cent of Bánk Bán was shot on location in Hungary, using many ancient historical monuments. Most

scenes were shot in actual thirteenth century cathedrals and chapels.

The entire 2-hour film of the opera with English subtitles can be viewed at


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