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Meg Ker a Nep

MEG KER A NEP



(Red Psalm)


Hungary, 1971


Director: Miklos Jancso

Production: Mafilm Studio; Eastmancolor, 35mm; running time: 88 minutes; length: 7920 feet. Released 1971, Hungary. Filmed 1971.


Screenplay: Gyula Hernádi; photography: János Kende; editor: Zoltán Farkas; art director: Tamás Banovich; musical arrangements: Ferenc Sebo; choreography: Ferenc Pesovár.

Cast: Lajos Balázsovits (Officer Cadet); András Bálint (Count); Gyöngyi Bürös (Young peasant woman); Andrea Drahota (Militant girl); József Madoras; Tibor Molnár; Tibor Orbán; Bertalan Solti.


Award: Cannes Film Festival, Best Director, 1972.

Publications


Books:

Liehm, Mira and Antonin, The Most Important Art: East EuropeanFilm after 1945, Berkeley, 1977.

Petrie, Graham, History Must Answer to Man: The ContemporaryHungarian Cinema, London, 1978.

Marlia, Giulio, Lo schermo liberato: il cinema di Miklós Jancsó, Firenze, 1982.


Articles:

Variety (New York), 24 May 1972.

Beylie, Claude, "Les Maelstroms de la liberté," in Ecran (Paris), July-August 1972.

Hollywood Reporter, 3 October 1972.

Varga, V., in Filmkultura (Budapest), November-December 1972.

Passek, J. L., "Psaume rouge: La Tactique et le rite," in Cinéma (Paris), December 1972.

Beylie, Claude, "L'Idéologie, la technique, et le rite," in Ecran (Paris), December 1972.

Langlois, G., "Miklos Jancso: 'Le Plan séquence: Le Rythme le plus près de la realité,"' in Cinéma (Paris), December 1972.

Desmet, P., and J. C. Guiguet, in Image et Son (Paris), January 1973.

Magny, Joel, in Téléciné (Paris), January 1973.

Cornaud, A., "Entretien avec Miklos Jancso," in Image et Son (Paris), January 1973.

Jeancolas, J. P., "Vers le corpus sacre de la révolution," in Positif (Paris), February 1973.

Cinématographe (Paris), February 1973.

Monthly Film Bulletin (London), April 1973.

Gow, Gordon, in Films and Filming (London), May 1973.

Andersson, W., in Filmrutan (Stockholm), no. 3, 1974.

Tomasino, R., "Circolarità della rivoluzione," in Filmcritica (Rome), August-September 1974.

Gay. B., in Image et Son (Paris), June-July 1975.

Film Form (Newcastle upon Tyne), Spring 1976.

Cinema Papers (Melbourne), June-July 1976.

Escobar, R., and V. Giacci, "Miklos Jancso: I riti della rivoluzione, la morte, la resurrezione, il futuro," in Cineforum (Bergamo), November 1976.

Baticle, Y.R., "Communication audio-visuelle et pedagogie: le message de l'affiche cinematographique," in Revue Belge du Cinéma (Brussels), vol. 14, no. 3, 1977.

Biro, Y., "Landscape During the Battle," in Millennium Film Journal (New York), no. 4/5, Summer/Fall 1979.


* * *

Of all of his films, Meg ker a nep perhaps best exemplifies the stylistic hallmarks with which Miklós Jancsó is most often associated: long takes (frequently 5 to 8 minutes in length), a constantly moving camera which weaves in and out of groups of moving figures, and an array of visual metaphors and exotic images rooted in Hungarian folklore and his own personal mythology.

On its most simple level, Meg ker a nep is set in Hungary in the 1890s and presents the emergence of agrarian socialist movements— but Jancsó isn't interested in a realistic depiction of isolated historical events. Through his unconventional cinematic style, Jancsó creates a "ritualistic portrayal of revolution" which takes on universal significance, and the success of the film derives from the manner in which its form becomes its content.

For Jancsó, "one can imagine a film other than in the form of a story. We must try to widen the limits of expression." With his reduction of the primacy of narrative, Jancsó also diminishes depth of characterization, the importance of individual action, and complex psychological explanations of behavior. In spite of these simplifications, Jancsó claims that his films are still "a means of expression with several dimensions." His undercutting of an audience's emotional identification with characters and situations creates, in his mind, "active" viewers and "makes [them] think"—and presumably take action at a later time.

If, in Meg ker a nep, Jancsó reduces traditional cinematic elements to a minimum, his style creates a heightened sense of the importance of movement, both in aesthetic and ideological terms. "It seems to me that life is a continual movement. In a procession, a demonstration, there's movement all the time, isn't there? It's physical and it's also philosophical: the contradiction is founded on movement, the movement of ideas, the movement of the masses. A man also is always surrounded, threatened by oppression: the camera movements I create suggest that too." In Meg ker a nep, the complex interweaving of the moving camera with the carefully choreographed groups of soldiers, horsemen, and villagers reflects the ideological conflicts central to the film. The long takes and the examples of nearly invisible editing allow the spectator to concentrate on non-verbal devices to understand the unfolding action. For example, foreground activity becomes background activity only to return minutes later to the foreground of the screen as a manifestation of the continual shifting nature of power. Geometric shapes (most notably vertical lines and circles) are also in constant conflict and in constant movement, and the shifting fortunes of ideological struggles are also indicated in the clash of various types of music in the film.

Music is especially important in Meg ker a nep; the narrative action is delineated as much by music and song as by the film's rather abstract, depersonalized dialogue. Beyond that, music universalizes the film's theme. Aside from Hungarian folk songs that tell of the events depicted in the film and the repetition of a key song in multiple contexts, Jancsó's music, which includes the Scottish ballad "Charlie Is My Darling" and the French "Marseillaise," suggests that all revolutions are part of one continuing revolution.

Miklós Jancsó, like Sergei Eisenstein and Sergei Paradzhanov, is a master of synesthesia, a director who fuses multiple art forms to create in film the perfect medium for Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk. Meg ker a nep, which won the "Best Director" award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, is perhaps Jancsó's best example of "fusion of the arts" and has been justly praised as Jancsó's best film by critics John Russell Taylor and Roy Armes.

—Joseph A. Gomez

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