Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sándor Csányi, Eszter Balla, Zoltán Mucsi, Csaba Pindroch, Sándor Badár, Zsolt Nagy, Bence Mátyási
Written by: Jim Adler, Nimród Antal
Directed by: Nimród Antal
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence and brief sexuality
Language: Hungarian with English subtitles
Running Time: 106
Date: 03/19/2013

Kontroll (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Subway Stories

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Set entirely in a Budapest subway, Nimród Antal's Kontroll chronicles the bleary-eyed denizens of that grimy underworld, devoid of day or night, of fresh air or nutrition. The film follows the workers of this world, the ticket inspectors who are required to wear armbands to distinguish themselves from the rest of the travelers. Everyone else is actually going somewhere.

Over the course of the film, Antal slowly unfurls his strange subterranean world for us, introducing us to the daily routines of the ticket collectors, their encounters with unruly passengers and their hunt for an elusive turnstile-jumping freeloader. Kontroll focuses mostly on Belcsú (Sándor Csányi), a shabbily handsome, mysterious fellow with permanent black circles around his eyes. Apparently, he sleeps on deserted platforms and reports to work without ever surfacing into the daylight. There are competitions with more sophisticated, streamlined bands of ticket workers (the best group gets to wear spiffy leather jackets in place of the shabby arm bands), and of course there is a girl. Sofie (Eszter Balla) turns up on a train wearing a bear suit, her adorable face peeking out and striking Belcsú.

The main problem with Kontroll is that Antal, who was born in the United States to Hungarian parents, eventually lets the mysteries of this world slip away. We come to learn the secret, sometimes shameful histories of the people who lurk here, and as they reveal themselves, they become more like Hollywood movie characters than real people. Their actions are too drastic with no middle ground, and we can't really relate. Still, it's a successful exercise in creating a cinematic world, and a promising debut.

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