Kontroll (2003)

This one is from Hungary - a first time director too. An overwhelming sense of hopelessness seems to be the backdrop of this film, primarily because it's eastern European. Thought the west carries with it a great sense of hopelessness too, this one presents itself through the post-communist and post-religious lens.

The entire film takes place in the underground of Budapest. The characters check subway passengers to see if they are carrying their tickets or passes. They consider their job only second worse to those who have to clean up after "jumpers" through themselves under trains. They are mistreated throughout the entire movie and one segment shows various workers of the kontroll in session with the company psychiatrist. The number of jumpers has been increasing lately and so the company suits are struggling with PR.

Because of the artificial light and the eternal smudge that covers subway stations, it's easy to experience the madness. Add to that a sea of depressed, and sometimes psychotic, commuters. Bulcsú is the protagonist and has recently taken to spending the night sleeping on platforms and then working the trains during the day with his motley crew, one of whom is narcoleptic. The question is why does he work this horrible job? And why has he relegated himself to not surfacing?

Bulcsú is the extreme character and we see a struggle between darkness and light, good and evil in him. Several other characters mirror this struggle, but to lesser degrees which really round out the story and the theme. The film is also layered with symbolism too. I'll have to watch it again to get more of it.

For a first-time director, I was impressed at the great package of acting, cinematography, and writing (co-written by the director). It's truly a pleasure to watch.

Though everything seems to be very extreme in this fast paced thriller, the characters are amiable enough that the viewer can enjoy the ride and suffer alongside them. The fact that it was all based on the subway too makes it that much more identifiable. Kontroll reminded me of the incredibly long escalators in Kiev that seemed to take passengers to the burning core of the earth. And the film could very well have represented a level of hell too! and purgatory! and heaven!

Official Site | IMDB

No comments: