Nationality: Hungarian. Born: Vác, Hungary, 27 September 1921. Education: Educated in law at Kolozsvár University, Romania, doctorate 1944; Budapest Academy of Dramatic and Film Art, graduated 1950. Family: Married director Márta Mészáros (divorced); son Miklos Jr. is cameraman. Career: Newsreel director, early 1950's; shot documentaries in China, 1957; directed first feature, A harangok Römába mentek, 1958; director at "25th" theatre, Budapest, 1960's. Awards: Hungarian Critics' Prize, for Cantata, 1963; Best Director Award, Cannes Festival, for Red Psalm, 1972; Special Prize, Cannes Festival, 1979.
Films as Director:
(of short films and documentaries):
Kezunbe vettuk a béke ugyét (We Took over the Cause of Peace) (co-d)
Szovjet mezögazdasági küldöttsek tanításai (The Teachings of a Soviet Agricultural Deputation) (co-d)
1952 Május 1 (May 1st 1952)
Választás elótt (Before Election); Arat az Orosházi Dözsa (Harvest in the Cooperative "Dosza"); Közös útan (Ordinary Ways; On a Common Path) (co-d)
Galga mentén (Along the Galgu River); Ösz Badacsonyban (Autumn in Badacsony); Éltetö Tisza-víz (The Health-giving Waters of Tisza; Life-bringing Water); Emberek! Neengedjétek! (Comrades! Don't Put up with It) (co-d, co-sc); Egy kiállitás képei (Pictures at an Exhibition)
Angyalföldi fiatalok (Children of Angyalfold; The Youth of "The Land of Angels"); A Varsoí vit (Varsoí Világifjusági Találkozö I-III; Warsaw World Youth Meeting I-III); Egydélután Koppánymonostorban (One Afternoon inKoppanymonostor; An Afternoon in the Village); Emlékezz,ifjúság (Young People, Remember)
Móricz Zsigmond (Zsigmond Moricz 1879–1942)
A város peremén (In the Outskirts of the City); Dél-Kína tájain (The Landscapes of Southern China); Színfoltok Kínaböl (Colorful China; Colors of China); Pekingi palotái (Palaces of Peking); Kína vendégei voltunk (Our Visit to China)
Derkovitz Gyula 1894–1934; A harangok Römába mentek (The Bells Have Gone to Rome) (feature)
Halhatatlanság (Immortality) (+ sc, ph); Izotöpok agyögyászatban (Isotopes in Medical Science)
First episode of Három csillág (Three Stars); Az eladásmüvészete (The Art of Revival; The Art of Salesmanship) (co-d); Szerkezettervezés (Construction Design) (+ sc)
Az idö kereke (The Wheels of Time) (+ sc); Alkonyok éshajnalok (Twilight and Dawn) (+ sc); Indiántörténet (Indian Story) (+ sc)
Oldás és kötés (Cantata) (+ co-sc); Hej, te eleven Fa . . . (Living Tree . . . An Old Folk Song) (+ sc)
(of feature films):
Igyjöttem (My Way Home)
Szegénylegények (The Round-up); Jelenlét (The Presence) (short) (+ sc); Közelrölia: a vér (Close-up: The Blood) (short)
Csillagosok, katonák (The Red and the White) (+ co-sc)
Csend és kiáltás (Silence and Cry) (+ co-sc); Vörös Május (Red May) (short)
Fényes szelek (The Confrontation); Sirokkó (Teli sirokkó lek; Winter Wind) (+ co-sc)
Égi bárány (Agnus Dei) (+ co-sc); La pacifista (The Pacifist) (+ co-sc); Füst (Smoke) (short)
Még kér a nép (Red Psalm)
Szerelmem, Elektra (Elektreia)
Vizi privati, pubbliche virtù (Vices and Pleasures)
Eletünket és vérunket: Magyar rapszödia 1 (Hungarian Rhapsody) (+ co-sc); Allegro barbaro: Magyar rapszödia 2 (Allegro barbaro) (+ co-sc)
A zsranok szíve avagy Boccaccio Magyarországon (TheTyrant's Heart; Boccaccio in Hungary) (+ co-sc)
Omega, Omega . . . ; Muzsika (Music)
Jézus Krisztus Horoszkója
Isten hátrafelé megy (God Runs Backwards)
Kék Duna keringö (Blue Danube Waltz)
Szeressük egymást gyerekek!
Anyád! A szúnyogok; Pesten Nkem lámpást adott kezembe az Úr (Lord's Lantern in Budapest) (+ role)
A Maksimenko brigád (The Maximenko Brigade) (Koza) (story)
A Pál utcai fiúk (The Boys of Paul Street) (Fabri) (role)
Difficile morire (Silva) (role)
By JANCSÓ: articles—
Interview, in The Image Maker, edited by Ron Henderson, Richmond, Virginia, 1971.
"L'Idéologie, la technique et le rite," interview with Claude Beylie, in Ecran (Paris), December 1972.
"I Have Played Christ Long Enough: A Conversation with Miklós Jancsó," with Gideon Bachmann, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1974.
"Entretien . . . sur Vitam et sanguinem," with Michel Ciment and J.-P. Jeancolas, in Positif (Paris), May 1979.
"A jelenlét," interview with I. Antal, in Filmkultura (Budapest), November/December 1981.
Interview with L. Somogyi, in Filmkultura (Budapest), October 1986.
Interview in Hungarofilm Bulletin (Budapest), no. 2, 1988.
Interview in Filmkultura (Budapest), January 1993.
"Uccu, megerett a meggy," in Filmvilag (Budapest), n. 12, 1996.
"Level-fele a drehbuchrol," in Filmvilag (Budapest), no. 2, 1997.
On JANCSÓ: books—
Taylor, John, Directors and Directions, New York, 1975.
Petrie, Graham, History Must Answer to Man: The ContemporaryHungarian Cinema, London, 1978.
Marlia, Giulio, Lo schermo liberato: il cinema di Miklós Jancsó, Florence, 1982.
Paul, David, W., editor, Politics, Art and Commitment in the EastEuropean Cinema, New York, 1983.
On JANCSÓ: articles—
"Miklós Jancsó," in International Film Guide 1969 edited by Peter Cowie, London, 1968.
Houston, Penelope, "The Horizontal Man," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1969.
Kane, P., and others, "Lectures de Jancsó: hier et aujourd'hui," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March and May 1969, and April 1970.
Robinson, D., "Quite Apart from Miklós Jancsó," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1970.
Czigany, Lorant, "Jancsó Country: Miklós Jancsó and the Hungarian New Cinema," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1972.
Bachmann, Gideon, "Jancsó Plain," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1974.
"Jancsó Issue" of Etudes Cinématographiques (Paris), no. 104–108, 1975.
Robinson, David, "Old Jancsó Customs," in Sight and Sound (London), no.1, 1978/79.
Biro, Y., "Landscape during the Battle," in Millenium (New York), Summer/Fall 1979.
Gillett, John, "Miklós Jancsó," in Film Dope (London), July 1983.
"Special Section" of Filmfaust (Frankfurt), March/April 1984.
Petrie, G., "Miklós Jancsó," in Revue Belge du Cinéma (Brussels), Summer 1985.
Liebman, Stuart, "Homevideo," in Cineaste (New York), vol. 28, no. 4, 1991.
Gelencsér, Gábor, "The Acquired Uncertainty: (Order and Chaos in the Art of Miklós Jancsó," in MovEast, vol. 1, no. 2, 1992.
Pošová, Kateøina, "Milenky Miklóse Jancsóa," in Film a Doba (Prague), Spring 1994.
Stratton, David, "Let's Love One Another (Szeressuk egymastgyerekekp)," in Variety (New York), 18 March 1996.
Elley, Derek, "The Lord's Lantern in Budapest (Nekem lampast adottkezembe az ur pesten)," in Variety (New York), 22 February 1999.
On JANCSÓ: films—
Kovács, Zsolt, Kamerával Kosztromában [With a Camera in Kosztroma], short, 1967.
Comolli, Jean-Louis, Miklós Jancsó, for TV, France, 1969.
* * *
Miklós Jancsó is probably the best internationally known of the directors to emerge from the new wave Hungarian cinema of the 1960s. With his hypnotic, circling camera, the recurrent—some critics say obsessive—exploration of Hungary's past, and his evocative use of the broad plains of his countries' Puszta, Jancsó fashioned a highly individual cinema within the confines of a state operated film industry. Although a prolific director of short films during the 1950s and an equally prolific director of feature films since the early 1970s, it is for his work during the middle and late 1960s that Jancsó is best known outside his own country.
Beginning with My Way Home, which dealt with a young Hungarian soldier caught up in the German retreat and Soviet advance during the Second World War, Jancsó discovered both a set of themes and a style which helped him to fashion his own voice. My Way Home, unlike most of Jancsó's films, has a hero, but this hero often behaves in a most unheroic way as he makes his way home. Set free by the chaos of the war's end, he is fired upon both by the Russians and the Germans and finally dons a Russian uniform as a protective disguise. Although clearly focused on individual figures, Jancsó's movie does contain an interesting allegory of the fate of his native country as, freed from Nazi oppression, the soldier only reluctantly dons the Russian uniform.
Szegénylegények (The Round-up, literally The Hopeless) established Jancsó as a filmmaker of international importance. The film is set in the Hungarian plain in a fort that houses a group of peasants under surveillance following the Kossuth rebellion of 1848, and focuses on the ritual quality of the games played as tormentors and informers and rebels interchange in a mysterious, elliptical dance of human passions. Shot in black and white, the film also revealed a purity of style as each meticulously composed shot conveys Jancsó's preoccupation with humans dislodged from convention and victimised by history. In spite of its scope, however, the film won praise for its analysis of the politics of terror and of the Kafkaesque state machinery through which such terror works.
Csillagosok Katonák (1967, The Red and the White) and Csend és Kiáltás (1968, Silence and Cry) moved into the early twentieth century and are concerned with communist revolutions of the immediate post-World War I period. The Red and the White was commissioned by the Soviet government to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the October revolution. The film isolates a group of Hungarian volunteers who are fighting on the side of the reds during the Russian civil war. Once again the expansive plain provides an open background against which huddle the opposing groups, both red and white. It is interesting considering the source of his commission that Jancsó refuses to choose to side with either the red or the whites but rather to present each as a mixture of compassion and understanding, barbarity and stupidity. Silence and Cry, operating on a smaller scale, deals with an isolated farmstead but also raises questions about people caught up in a society torn by social and political change. Here Jancsó's circling camera becomes hypnotic, and his tendency to depsychologize his characters is at its most extreme. Jancsó explains very little in his plot, leaving the viewer to wrestle with its obscurities and ellipses.
The claustrophobic qualities of Silence and Cry prepared his audience for Fényes Szelek (The Confrontation), set in the immediate post-war world and dealing with students, both Catholic and Communist, who square off in a quadrille interweaving accusation and intimidation. Clearly the film was occasioned by the student riots and sit-ins in 1968–69 in Budapest. It pits the Marxist students as the voice of change and revolution against the conventions of the Catholic students. The plot is minimal and Jancsó's camera at its most vertiginous, hardly ever stopping in its unceasing search for the truth. The truth, of course, as it so often does, eludes us, as the confrontation finally has more to do with temporary power games than it does with ultimate reality.
In Sirokkó (Winter Wind), made in Yugoslavia as a Franco-Hungarian co-production, he returned to the use of color (as in The Confrontation) and photographed, like Silence and Cry, with a minimum of shots, twelve in this case. The story deals with the historical and political irony of a Croatian anarchist leader of the 1930s who is destroyed by his own forces, only later to be resurrected as a hero. Égi Bárány (Agnus Dei), a favorite film of Jancsó's and regarded by many Hungarians as his most nationalistic, is once again set in the broad Hungarian plain during the period of civil war, but it is far more symbolic and anticipates the new ground he would explore in his next film.
With Még Kér a Nép (Red Psalm), Jancsó returned to the Puszta and to the end of the last century during a period of peasant unrest. A confrontation between workers and their landowners is interrupted by the army. The subsequent action follows patterns established earlier in Jancsó's other films. But there is a difference in Red Psalm—the symbolic elements always present in the earlier films become foregrounded: a dead soldier is resurrected by a kiss from a young girl; the soldiers join the peasants in a Maypole dance but eventually surround the rebellious farmers and shoot them down; a girl outside the circle using a gun tied with a red ribbon guns down all of the soldiers. The mannerisms noted by a number of critics are missing here, and Jancsó seems to have found a new direction amidst old material: the symbolism of the film elevates it beyond Jancsó's usual concerns. Red Psalm exemplifies what is often hidden in his other films: the totality of the film, and the celebration of life in the revolution which will bring joy in the renewed possibilities for human expression and freedom.
Although Miklós Jancsó has gone on to make other films, many of them outside Hungary itself, his body of work from My Way Home to Red Psalm seems to best exemplify his unique contribution to world cinema. Like many of the other new Hungarian filmmakers, Jancsó rejected the traditions of the conservative and classic bound national cinema he inherited, turning to a more liberating and avant-garde style that allowed him not only greater artistic expression but also increased freedom from state censorship. By adopting a more modernist approach, most notably evident in his use of a minimal plot and in the dialectical tensions between the images, he has urged his audiences out of their complacency by challenging the status quo through his questioning of the uses and abuses of state power wielded in the name of the people. This has made his films truly revolutionary.
—Charles L.P. Silet
"Jancsó, Miklós." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/jancso-miklos
"Jancsó, Miklós." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved September 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/jancso-miklos
Hungarian filmmaker Miklós Jancsó (born 1921) was a pioneer in what became known as his country's New Wave cinema of the 1960s. Drawing heavily upon his Central European nation's rich history and culture, Jancsó made a number of visually stunning epics during his peak years in the late 1960s, many of them set on the epic grassy plains that Hungarians revere as their heartland, Puszta. His 1967 account of Hungarian fighters during the 1918–1920 Russian civil war, The Red and the White, may be his best–known work outside Hungary. Guardian critic Derek Malcolm called it "a tour de force of a very special kind and a piece of cinema unlike anything else coming out of world cinema at the time."
Entered Film Industry
Jancsó was born in Vác, Hungary, on September 27, 1921. As a young man, he studied law at Kolozsvár University in Romania, earning his doctorate in 1944. Abandoning this career path for the arts, he went on to the Budapest Academy of Dramatic and Film Art, from which he graduated in 1950. He began his career as a director of the newsreels that were a movie–theater staple at the time, but by then Hungary was firmly entrenched within the Soviet sphere as a one–party Communist regime. Artistic innovation or experimentation could sometimes prove dangerous for creative types, and any form of expression was expected to hew to the standard political ideology, which promoted the more humanitarian ideals of the collective society over that of the more individualist spirit of free–market capitalism.
Jancsó stuck to making documentaries and short films early in his career. Titles to his credit, in translated form, include We Took Over the Cause of Peace, The Teachings of a Soviet Agricultural Deputation, and Comrades! Don't Put up with It. In 1957, he traveled to China and made four documentaries there. A year later, his first feature film, A harangok Römába mentek (The Bells Have Gone to Rome), was released. He followed it with several more, including 1959's Halhatatlanság (Immortality) and Oldás és kötés (Cantata), for which he also co–wrote the screenplay. "With his hypnotic, circling camera, the recurrent—some critics say obsessive—exploration of Hungary's past, and his evocative use of the broad plains of his countries' Puszta, Jancsó fashioned a highly individual cinema within the confines of a state operated film industry," asserted an essay in the International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers.
Made Several Stunning Films
Critics consider Jancsó's 1964 film Igyjöttem (My Way Home) the start of his most intensely creative period. The story begins near the close of World War II, and features a Hungarian teenager traversing the countryside while attempting to return to his family. He is captured by Soviet Army troops, thanks to the German uniform he has donned to keep warm, and eventually makes his way out of the camp after befriending a Russian soldier. Only when he puts on a Russian uniform does his ordeal begin to end and he finds his way home. Jancsó followed this with Szegénylegények (The Round–up) in 1965, which was the first of his films to reach audiences outside of the Soviet bloc. Its story deals with the aftermath of Hungary's Kossuth rebellion in 1848, when nationalists attempted to throw off Austrian Hapsburg rule and establish a parliamentary government. The rebellion was brutally crushed, and Jancsó's film fictionalizes a round–up of peasants by Austrian military officers; the group is kept under close scrutiny in order to find out which ones had served as local leaders of the uprising. "There are informers everywhere, and neither side knows who or where they are," noted Malcolm. "All we know is that there will be no happy ending and that even the people we imagine to be heroes are flawed."
Jancsó's most admired film may be the 1967 classic Csillagosok, katonák (The Red and the White). The work was actually commissioned by Soviet cultural authorities as part of an Eastern European–wide commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution and the founding of the Soviet Union. A bloody civil war in Russia ensued, with foreign solders coming to the aid of the "reds," or Communists, while some Western governments provided aid to the newly dispossessed "White Russians" of the former aristocracy. Jancsó's film follows a brigade of Hungarians who join the battle near Russia's Volga River. "It is interesting considering the source of his commission that Jancsó refuses to choose to side with either the red or the whites but rather to present each as a mixture of compassion and understanding, barbarity and stupidity," asserted the International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers essay. Malcolm also commended it, calling it a "portrait of pure mayhem. There are identifiable characters, but none of them are developed as either fascists or communists, and scarcely as human beings. They are merely pawns."
Jancsó made several more daring films in the late 1960s, including Csend és kiáltás (Silence and Cry), and Fényes szelek (The Confrontation), a 1969 project that ostensibly followed a group of Hungarian university students bitterly divided on political matters during a time of political crisis in the immediate post–World War II period. Yet the film had echoes of the student movement that was taking place at the time, even in Budapest. Another work from 1969 was Sirokkó (Winter Wind), a historical saga filmed in Yugoslavia that was a joint French–Hungarian production. Known for filming extremely long takes—a style of filmmaking that requires precise planning and faultless work from both cast and crew—Jancsó made this particular movie in just twelve shots. A subsequent film, 1972's Még kér a nép (Red Psalm), takes place on the Puszta and once again features a class struggle—in this case, a peasant uprising against landowners. It won him the Best Director Award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival.
Active as Octogenarian
Jancsó went on to make dozens of other films, including a few in Italy that featured slightly more salacious scenes and themes. Few were ever seen in the West, save for the film–festival circuit. The passage of time did not slow his work habits: nearing the age of 80, he made an impressive trilogy that began with Pesten Nkem lámpást adott kezembe az Úr (Lord's Lantern in Budapest), a 1999 comedy that featured a pair of likable gravediggers, along with a heady mix of song, dance, and Hungarian cultural references. He continued the Kapa and Pepe saga in Anyád! A szúnyogok (Damn You! Mosquito) in which the pair become embroiled in a perplexing romantic triangle. "Non–Hungarians won't get a lot out of this seemingly improvised foolery, or out of the significant use of traditional and popular songs," wrote Variety's David Stratton. "But the freshness with which the venerable director handles this contemporary material certainly impresses."
The last in Jancsó's planned trilogy was Utolsó vacsora az Arabs Szürkénél (Last Supper at the Arabian Grey Horse), but the Kapa and Pepe duo proved so popular that he brought them back for two more films, including A Mohacsi Vesz (The Battle of Mohacs). Here, Pepe goes back in time to alter Hungarian history, specifically the outcome of a 1526 battle in which Hungary was truncated and Ottoman rule imposed. "Jancso cheekily turns history on its head for a satire on Hungarian illusions—still evoked by some modern–day nationalist pols—of the country becoming a world–class player," noted Derek Elley in a Variety critique. Though Jancsó's later works seem a drastic shift from his daring 1960s period, Malcolm commended his contribution to the cinema of Eastern Europe during a trying era, when innovation could ruin one's career. The best of Jancsó's works, the Guardian critic asserted, "bitterly analysed the history of his persecuted country and commented, too, on the nature of violence in more general terms. No one has tried quite the same thing in the same way, and that is his most formidable legacy."
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, fourth edition, St. James Press, 2000.
Entertainment Weekly, April 9, 1993.
Guardian (London, England), October 19, 2000; August 14, 2003.
Variety, February 28, 2000; April 16, 2001; February 17, 2003; February 16, 2004.
"Jancsó, Miklós." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jancso-miklos
"Jancsó, Miklós." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved September 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jancso-miklos