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Movie review: Kontroll (Revizoři - recenze)

  • title: Kontroll (2003)
  • origin: Hungary
  • length: 110 minutes
  • directed by: Nimród Antal
  • starring: Sándor Csányi , Zoltán Mucsi , Csaba Pindroch , Bence Mátyási

First thing you see is a sort of disclaimer announcing that you should not judge the quality of Budapest’s public transport on the basis of what you are going to see in the film. And I didn’t get it. The movie is much more sur- than reality and I can hardly imagine anybody taking it as an insight to the current situation in Budapest’s metro.

Title “Kontroll” stands for ticket control in the metro. The main characters are ticket inspectors (and the movie itself is sometimes translated as Ticket inspectors by its distributors). Kontroll is that kind of a movie you watch after you heard about it (at least I don’t know any die-hard fans of Hungarian cinematography), so, as you have heard or read, most of the movie takes place in the Budapest’s underground. But after a while you realize that probably the film isn’t going to leave the underground at all. And one particular key scene convinces you about it definitively.

In front of you there are one hundred and ten minutes of grayness, dusty tiles, blinking fluorescent lamps, incomprehensible traffic announcements, veteran train units and black-caped killers. Don’t expect any funny stowaway pursuits. The daily routine of a ticket inspector covers only a small part of the movie. If you don’t count life-and-death runs in the trackage before the deadly wheels of the last train.

You first encounter the main character sleeping at the deserted metro station. When the first morning train arrives, one of the passengers comes closer to Bulcsu and tells him he is bleeding from his nose. Bulcsu stands up, puts on his arm strip (mark of the Budapest’s ticket inspector) and asks the man for his ticket. Bulcsu is at about thirty years old, leader of one of the ticket inspectors group and natural authority for all his colleagues who admire him. And he is trapped. It is one of the first mysteries of the movie – we don’t know why, but he is unable or not willing to leave the area of the metro. And so don’t expect a single beam of sunlight in the movie. Bulcsu lives his life under the ground, sleeps in abandoned stations and eats and drinks stuff vending machines give away. He is acquainted with the underground more than anybody.

The main plot follows Bulcsu’s steps but there are a lot more interesting characters – there is an old train driver Bela (who was degradead from the above-ground trains) and his pretty daughter Szofi (wearing a bear costume and righting the small everyday wrongs happening on the train), the incurable stowaway (for whom the pursuits with inspectors are like an adrenalin sport) and… … a mysterious black-caped killer. He never speaks, emerges from nowhere, is smart enough to avoid the sight of security cameras. He attacks without warning and several victims have already ended up under the wheels of the incoming train. No one ever sees anything and the killings are treated as accidents and suicides…

After some time, Bulcsu and the killer meet close up. So close that Bulcsu is accused of the last murder. There is no evidence but because he is not trusted (even some of his colleagues suspect him – after all, he wouldn’t be the first inspector gone crazy, only a few days ago, one of the inspector just slit stowaways throat), Bulcsu leaves the company angrily – knowing that he is the only one capable of catching the killer – because the killer seems to know the underground almost as perfectly as Bulcsu does.

Mysterious is the attribute characterizing the movie the best. Mystery built upon the everyday mediocrity. What can be less mysterious, than a public transport? Ohh, you would be surprised! The plain, functional and claustrophobic interiors of the stations are populated by strange and weird people. Some snow-white good, others pure evil. And some maybe both? It is hard to resist the feeling that Bulcsu and the killer are somehow connected… The movie is a lot about visual impressions. Brilliant editing and camera-work allow you to penetrate into the atmosphere. The dialogues are short and many things remain unsaid – this is what you notice very soon. Hollywood movies are often full of blather, in “Kontroll”, only what is necessary is told out loud. If I should compare this style to something I have seen before, it resembles David Lynch’s works in some ways.

When you are actually watching Kontroll, you may experience some periods of slight boredom, but after the final credits roll away, you will recommend it to all of your friends – and, probably, you will use words “must see”. Because this movie is really different from anything you have seen so far and those one hundred minutes are totally worth it.

Jak se vám líbili Revizoři

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