Review: ‘Escape to Budapest’

High-profile Czech talent goes through the motions in post-WWI meller "Escape to Budapest." Period feel and epic length of this mildly engaging saga suggest brisk Euro TV sales rather than much theatrical action, with dependable vid life to follow.

High-profile Czech talent goes through the motions in post-WWI meller “Escape to Budapest.” Period feel and epic length of this mildly engaging saga suggest brisk Euro TV sales rather than much theatrical action, with dependable vid life to follow.

In the uncertain days following the Great War, as Czechoslovakia is formed, law student Tomas (Ondrej Sokol), scion of a wealthy Slovak farming family, arrives in Prague and is soon courting shy, middle-class Czech classmate Jana (Lenka Vlasakova). They impulsively bed down in a Budapest hotel — much to consternation of their families — then make it legal at the family farm where Jana bonds with her charismatic father-in-law, Stefan (Bolek Polivka). The marriage strains as family fortunes wane, so it’s on to Vienna and a bittersweet finale. Vet Slovak helmer Miroslav Luther displays a sure hand, aided by dependable Czech names Polivka (“Divided We Fall”), actor-singer Miroslav Donutil (“Cozy Dens”) and helmer Jiri Menzel (“Closely Watched Trains”) in a single scene as a desperate Austrian nobleman. There’s little chemistry between leads, but, given region’s history, that may be the point. Competent tech credits utilize strong location work to sell period flavor.

Escape to Budapest

Slovakia

Production

An Ars Media (Slovakia) production, in association with Czech TV, Slovak TV, Tivoli Film (Hungary). (International sales: Czech TV, Prague.) Produced by Igor Hudec. Directed by Miroslav Luther. Screenplay, Martin Porubjak, Marian Puobis, Luther, from the 1932 novel by Vladislav Vancura.

Crew

Camera (color), Vladimir Hollos; editor, Rudolf Mihalik; music, Peter Mankoveck. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Cinema of Europe), Sept. 3, 2003. Running time: 135 MIN.

With

Lenka Vlasakova, Ondrej Sokol, Bolek Polivka, Irena Konvalinova, Miroslav Donutil, Jiri Menzel.
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