“I had something in mind for most of the scenes and images in the film and almost without fail, people have interpreted those moments differently… What I’ve really learned in this process is that it doesn’t really matter what I think I’m doing, that’s the beauty of it really, that once it’s out and there are all these hundreds of other eyes trained on it, it becomes a conversation.”–Director Nimród Antal on symbolism in Kontroll
DIRECTED BY: Nimród Antal
FEATURING: Sándor Csányi, Eszter Balla, Bence Mátyássy, Gyözö Szabó, Lajos Kovács, György Cserhalmi
PLOT: Bulcsú, a Budapest metro transit cop, copes with eccentric passengers and incompetent coworkers as he pursues a veiled serial killer. Living and sleeping in the tunnels, Bulcsú is bullied by tormentors, chases gang members, dodges trains and follows a mysterious girl as he tracks a murderer who pushes passengers under speeding engines. As the killings continue unabated, suspicion eventually turns toward Bulcsú himself.
- Director Nimród Antal was born in Los Angeles (of Hungarian ancestry) and moved to Hungary to study filmmaking at the Hungarian Academy of Drama and Film. He made his first feature film, Kontroll, then returned to the U.S. to direct conventional Hollywood products, most recently Predators (2010).
- The city of Budapest allowed Antal access to the subway system to shoot the film during the five hours per night the trains did not run. A man claiming to be the Director of the Budapest Metro appears in a prologue to the film to stress that Kontroll is a work of fiction and that real Metro employees do not behave in the ways depicted.
- Kontroll won the Prix de la Jeunesse (Prize of the Young) at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. It was the first Hungarian film to screen at Cannes in twenty years.
- Antal cited Andrei Tarkovsky, Stanley Kubrick, Terry Gilliam, Martin Scorsese, and Beat Takeshi as influences on Kontroll.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The most enduring image is a metaphor for the troubled Bulcsúis’s transcendence. The kontroller hides in the underground sanctuary from the real world above. But the outside is only a symbol. Bulcsúis is really seeking refuge from himself and his feelings. Uncertain about his own emotions, and lacking in confidence, avoiding the world above is his way of postponing self-confrontation. What then, can be more symbolic of his waiting deliverance than the symmetrical image of the great, silvery, central escalator leading to the bright lights and certain reality of the surface? Bulcsú knows he must eventually ascend it but he has not yet the courage to face that eventuality. Will his love for the mysterious, bear-costumed Szofi become the key to unlocking his emotions and freeing himself?
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Kontroll is a fantasy that stands alone in its enigmatic singularity. The film craftily assimilates drama, suspense and social satire into a multifaceted story in the unusual setting of an Old World subway. Director Antal surprisingly succeeds at combining an unlikely set of plot elements. He decants the chaos of social rambunctiousness, the absurdity that entails when authority dictates regulation at the simplest levels of its jurisdiction, and a survey of attitudes and life’s daily ironies into an imaginative story. The resulting integration creates a unique, alternative viewing experience.
Original English language trailer for Kontroll
COMMENTS: Hydraulics hiss, rails clatter, and trains blast at high speeds in the dimly lit, Continue reading 76. KONTROLL (2003)