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Everybody is Afraid of the Dwarf

An average story of a young Hungarian couple struggling to make ends meet is boosted by superior production values and quirky grace notes in "Everybody Is Afraid of the Dwarf." Some Eurotube sales could follow festival exposure for this reasonably accessible item. Two young marrieds (Rafael Istvan Kovacs, Julia Muller) live in a small town in southern Hungary where jobs are hard to come by and gypsies are willing to do menial labor for a bowl of soup. Everyone lives in fear of an ugly eccentric, nicknamed the Dwarf, who collects the electricity payments and has the power to cut off households' juice.

With:
With: Rafael Istvan Kovacs, Julia Muller, Katalin Dobos, Denissa Der, Zoltan Varga, Brigitta Bodo, Karoly Dunai, Zizi.

With a second child, and his wife unwilling to sell “basics” like their TV set and videocassette recorder, the husband gets increasingly desperate when his social security benefits are stopped. After trying to raise the deposit for a job in Germany, he finally hears of a guy with an old truck that, renovated, could get him work as a driver. But in his desire to succeed, the husband commits a petty crime that later has tragic consequences.

There’s little new in the storyline, but the pic’s easy tempo, unhysterical portrait of family life under the hammer of unemployment, and the irreal character of the Dwarf (who’s never developed beyond being a reminder of the fragility of the couple’s living standards) are far more involving than many rawer portraits of Magyar economic woes.

Kovacs and Muller are very good as the educated couple who, we’re subtly reminded, aren’t exactly on the bread line yet. However, what really distinguishes the movie is Tibor Mathe’s classy widescreen lensing (both in interiors and exteriors) and helmer Jozsef Czencz’s smooth direction. Both have a much more mainstream feel than such subject matter usually receives in Hungarian cinema, and is all the more surprising coming from Istvan Darday’s production house MIT, previously known for more envelope-pushing fare.

Everybody is Afraid of the Dwarf

Hungarian

Production: An MIT production. Produced by Istvan Darday. Directed by Jozsef Czencz. Screenplay, Gyorgyi Szalai.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Tibor Mathe; editor, Terez Losonczy; music, Peter Kaszas, Czencz; art direction, Janos Mraz; sound, Peter Lackovich. Reviewed at Hungarian Film Week, Budapest, Feb. 8, 1997. Running time: 86 MIN.

With: With: Rafael Istvan Kovacs, Julia Muller, Katalin Dobos, Denissa Der, Zoltan Varga, Brigitta Bodo, Karoly Dunai, Zizi.

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