Rewind Review: Hukkle


As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Hukkle (2002)

If one is completely unfamiliar with Hungarian cinema and they venture out to see Hukkle, boy, are they ever bound to get culture shock. It is a film which may even be more cerebral and have more of an anti-plot than your typical Magyar fare.
The film tells the tale of a small village nestled in a countryside valley over the course of a few days. Story, perhaps, might even be an overstatement as it seems to be more a chronology than anything else.
The film employs next to no dialogue. The only significant portion of dialogue or words spoken that need subtitling is a folk song sung near the end. Instead what you do get is an amelodically symphonic soundtrack that crescendos quite frequently in the early going and differentiates itself from kitschy American commercials of sound montage, which are of a lesser ilk. The sound is the unifying sense in this film. Insomuch as everything is tied together by a hukkle (hiccup) which is uttered by an old man sitting on the bench.

While the hiccup may be the epicenter of this story the affected landscape, the surrounding ecosystem, is the focus. While an American filmmaker might be inclined to make this an environmentalist manifesto here instead you get a comment on the nature of man and animal. You are bombarded with animal imagery such that it seems, at times, that you are watching a nature documentary. However, if you make note of all these scenes carefully you notice the actions parallel each other and at some point you see nearly everything you’ve witnessed in the animal kingdom demonstrated among men.
As per usual in Hungarian cinema, it is a film that requires patience from its audience, provokes thought and requires participation and must be engaged in not merely watched. This must be an active process you must impose it on yourself as narrative and other conventions will not work to draw you in and lack of effort to engage yourself will reap no reward.
It’s a film which is experimental but unlike many which could be described that way is highly accessible, again if an effort is put forth on the part of the viewer. It is also a film which challenges the very nature of narrative and, depending on how you read one shot, reality: there is a part where the film stops, tears and spins out. Then the camera pulls out and shows film strips hung over a bin. So the scenes we saw were shot by someone in the story. This reflexivity puts into question the narrative truth of the tale to an extent.
Similarly, there is a mini-subplot that develops about two-thirds of the way through of a police investigation. However, keeping in the spirit of experiment there is less mystery as is typical in a traditional film and the end of said subplot is concluded but not confrontational or bombastic as we’re accustomed to seeing.

Hukkle despite all its unusual elements is a rather brisk film not only in running time but in pace as well. Despite its cerebral nature and antithetical construction it is an easy watch which should allow you to get a flavor for the Hungarian cinema.