Review: ‘The Szelid Brothers’

Uneven in pacing and mood, "The Szelid Brothers" is a stab at a contempo Hungarian road movie that doesn't last the distance. Inside references will make this acceptable to local auds, but the quixotic journey depicted here won't travel far abroad. Ostensibly a study of three brothers who are "children of the great changes," the first post-Communist generation of Magyar youth, film tries to pack in a great deal of not very inspired comment about the state of the Hungarian nation in the '90s, heavily influenced as it is by all things American --- especially movies --- and the youth culture. But viewers will remain unenlightened by the film's end.

The Szelid boys (“szelid” means “gentle”) live with their well-off parents who, in the dying days of communism, made a profit by selling East Germans hang gliders with which to fly west. Story begins with a family outing by the sea. After instructing his youngest son, Danny, on how to gaze into the sun, which gives the boy lasting double vision, Szelid Sr. flies off and simply disappears.

His wife takes her sons back to Budapest and establishes a video outlet, but is disturbed when Danny decides to remake “The Godfather” with his own video camera. Cziny, the oldest boy, becomes a successful rock singer; B.S., the middle boy, is a car fanatic.

When the mother is killed by thieves attempting to steal a necklace, the Szelid boys are left alone. With their mother’s ashes in an urn, they decide to return to that fateful seashore. They’ve divided the family spoils: Danny has the video camera, B.S. the car and Cziny the cash. They don’t get far. After the boys’ car crashes and they’re robbed of camera and cash, remainder of the overlong saga details their attempts to retrieve their belongings and reach their coastal rendezvous. Along the way, Danny loses his virginity to a beautiful young cellist.

But there’s nothing remarkable about this odyssey, and though production values are solid, pacing is languid. Filmic references abound, with two of the brothers referring to themselves as Micky and Mallory from “Natural Born Killers.” But the film doesn’t dwell on the violence of contempo Hungary, preferring to adopt a lightly comic tone wherever possible.

Result is a mixed-up pic that misses several opportunities for an overview of a society in transition.

The Szelid Brothers

Hungarian

Production

An MTV Dramai Studio/Hetfoi Muhely Studio production, with the support of MMA. Produced by Eva Schulze. Directed, written by Zsolt Balogh.

Crew

Camera (color), Sandor Csukas; editor, Eva Palotai; music, Zoltan Rajkai, Adam Horgos; sound (Dolby stereo), Tamas Markus. Reviewed at Hungarian Film Week, Budapest, Feb. 10, 1997. Running time: 114 MIN.

With

Gyorgy Feher, Peter Connelly, Zoltan Rajkai, Erika Marozsan, Lajos Kovacs, Eniko Borcsok.
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