Review: ‘The Smallest Foundation in the World’

This curious film takes a belated look at life in Hungary under communism, but does so in such a pallid and circuitous way that it fails to make much impact. The director, veteran Ferenc Kardos, doesn't even bother to explain just when or where the events depicted are taking place. Offshore chances look small indeed. The opening shots depict the principal characters, a widow, her rich and aristocratic friend, and her sickly son, wandering atop spectacular cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. Seems the son has been taken to the seaside to help cure his illness, and that the countess is an old friend of his mother who's living in exile in France. Both women had been married to Hungarian politicians, killed in Communist purges.

The countess, with her chauffeur-driven car, takes the woman and her son back to Hungary, where, for ill-defined reasons, they’ve been given government money to start a small “foundation,” or company, looking after stray dogs, a presumed metaphor for something or other.

Nothing much happens, and pacing is so slow that brief pic seems far longer than it is. A pair of secret police keep watch on the two women and their two elderly employees as they build dog pens, and a little boy, a runaway from a state home, takes shelter with the women, making the son jealous.

The rather insubstantial, and not very revealing, point of the film seems to be the final revelation that “animals are no better than men.”

Pic seems instantly dated. Cinematic allegories made during the Communist era, like Andras Kovacs’ “The Stud Farm,” were far more interesting than this. Still, the talented actors do their best with negligible roles, and all credits are fine.

The Smallest Foundation in the World

Hungarian

Production

A Budapest Filmstudio/MTV production, with the support of MMA, Telefilm. Produced by Ferenc Kardos. Directed by Ferenc Kardos. Screenplay, Ferenc and Istvan Kardos.

Crew

Camera (color), Janos Kende; editor, Gabriella Konc; costumes, Fanny Kemenes; sound, Istvan Sipos. Reviewed at Hungarian Film Week, Budapest, Feb. 9, 1997. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Mother ..... Dorottya Udvaros Countess Zsofia ..... Hedi Temessy
With: Balazs Foky, Roszich Dzsoko, Iren Bodis, Andras Doszkocs.
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