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cast: Lili Darvas, Mari Törõcsik, Iván Darvas

director: Károly Makk

85 minutes (PG) 1971
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Second Run DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens


Hungarian director Károly Makk is probably best known for Another Way, his 1981 prizewinner about a lesbian affair. That film is also distributed on DVD by Second Run, who are doing their bit to raise a neglected director's profile in the UK.

Love (aka: Szerelem) was made in 1971 but is set earlier, at the time of the 1956 Hungarian uprising against Communism, which was soon crushed by the Soviets. Any citizen suspected of dissidence was 'disappeared' by the secret police. (The House of Terror in Budapest, where many of them ended up, is now a museum and a grim testimony to its era.) The whole subject was such a hot potato that Makk spent half a decade before he was allowed to make the film. In retrospect, considering how restrictive the censors were in other Eastern bloc countries, it's a miracle that he could make it at all.

Love is economical to a fault. Running under 90 minutes, it needs close attention to get to grips with it. An old woman (Lili Darvas) lies bedridden; her memories presented to us as quick flashes. Tending to her is her daughter-in-law Luca (Mari Törõcsik). As they talk, the man in both their lives - János (Iván Darvas) - frequently figures in their conversation. Letters arrive describing how he is establishing himself as a film director in America; one of 200,000 Hungarians to flee the country after the uprising was crushed. But the truth is very different.

Made in black and white, Love is a low-key film whose seeming quietness packs a punch. Makk's direction, helped by precision editing, ably creates a mood. The many flashbacks are terse, sometimes like still photos, at other times all but subliminal but always on screen long enough to have their intended effect. The result, when the pieces of the plot all into place, is moving. Makk would reunite Mari Törõcsik and Iván Darvas 22 years later in a semi-sequel, A Long Weekend In Pest And Buda, which is also distributed on DVD by Second Run.

This DVD is encoded for all regions and is widescreen-enhanced in a ratio of 1.78:1. The soundtrack is the original mono (for some reason encoded as Dolby digital 2.0 surround). English subtitles are optional. The extras comprise a 20-minute introduction by Makk and the original trailer.

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