“Abel in the Forest” is an OK Balkan kidpic that would be even better if it were a tad shorter. Attractively lensed and locationed yarn of a young teen and his mutt in 1920 Transylvania could get offshore mileage as a dubbed item in youth slots.
Based on the novel by Hungarian writer Aron Tamasi (1897-1966), film is set in the richly forested Hargita Mountains, handed over to Romania under the World War I peace treaty. Abel, forced to work as a logging guard away from his poor parents’ home, soon cuts a deal whereby he gets to keep any trees felled by natural causes. Abel tweaks the arrangement by using unexploded bombs to blast down more arbors.
Canny kid soon gets the better of various types who reckon he’s an easy mark, from oily monks after his soul to city slickers with forged bank drafts. By the following spring he’s ready to stay on, swearing on his mother’s grave to always support the poor and oppressed. At pic’s close, he and his woofer walk into the sunset proudly proclaiming, “We’ll bark at the world.”
Magyar director Sandor Mihalyfi, using a mixed Hungarian-Romanian cast and crew, keeps things moving along most of the time, with some gentle comedy, fine photography of the russet-green landscape and a pleasant symphonic score by Gyorgy Selmeczi. Preachier final section, and a slackening of tempo, could easily be solved by tightening. Perfs are all fine.