A hiccuping old man watching life in a deceptively pastoral Hungarian town is the centerpiece of a strange, dialogue-free photographic mystery called "Hukkle."
By JOSHUA TANZER
"Hukkle" is kind of like "Koyaanisqatsi" without an agenda.
Director Gyšrgy P‡lfi has put together a moving photo album of sorts, an impressionistic portrait of daily life in a rural Hungarian town. With no dialogue, the images speak equally to audiences in any country, and what's not familiar is made intriguing by the camera's lush, inquisitive close-ups.
The day begins as a wizened old man awakens and takes his place on a bench in front of his house. Plastic sheeting over the roof gives it the look of a fairy-tale cottage, and the folds in the old man's face speak of many decades sitting in this hyperreal spot and watching life go by. From his perch, he takes in this particular day along with us, hiccuping jovially from sun-up to sundown. ("Hukkle," we're told, is what a hiccup sounds like in Hungarian.)
Even if nothing were happening, "Hukkle" would still be an offbeat pleasure to watch. The camera playfully explores the countryside and its animal inhabitants, from fish underwater to a gopher's-eye ride through the soil itself. A man drives his rhythmic old horse-drawn water cart from the well to the townsfolk, and a shepherdess sits under a tree with a book while her flock mills around her. It might be 1900, until we notice the earphones connecting her to a tiny portable stereo. She's doing an iron-age job in an MP3-age world. The camera paints an adoring picture of the village and its way of life, and the sound though not necessarily authentic in every case is an essential part of the portrait as well.
|Written and directed by: Gyšrgy P‡lfi.|
Cast: Ferenc Bandi, J—zsef Forkas, Attila Kasz‡s, çgi Margittay, Ferenc Nagy, J‡nosnŽ Nagy, Eszter înodi, J—zsefnŽ R‡cz.
Cinematography: Gergely Poh‡rnok.
Music by: Bal‡zs Barna, Samu Gryllus.
Sound by: Tam‡s Z‡nyi.
Related links: Official site
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But something is happening under the surface some of the clues are there, others we can only guess at. An old lady goes out picking flowers; later, she's fussing around in the kitchen and filling little vials with a white mystery liquid. A cat rolls on the ground is he playing or writhing? A fisherman goes missing. A funeral procession weaves up the street, past the old hiccuping man. Life's cycle keeps repeating as if it's no big thing just another of the old-timer's by-now-innumerable, dreamlike days.|
"Hukkle" was obviously pure fun for the filmmaker P‡lfi to create, and it's fun to watch too. Figuring out the intricacies of the underlying story would take several viewings and an especially keen eye (others in my group got a lot more of the details than I did), but it would be no chore to see the film a few times if you're willing to surrender yourself to its subtly mysterious world.
|DECEMBER 10, 2003|
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