Hungarian auteur Istvan Gaal, who won a Jury Prize at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival for “The Falcons,” died Sept. 25 after a long illness. He was 74.
The son of an electrician, Gaal toyed with various proletarian pursuits (laborer and pump operator) before he turned to filmmaking, and after graduating in 1957 from Budapest’s Academy Theater and Film Art, Gaal became a member of a coterie of young directors like Pal Gabor, Istvan Szabo, Miklos Jancso, and Marta Meszaros who redefined Magyar cinema and pioneered its New Wave era.
A film student during the quelled 1956 anti-Soviet revolution, Gaal — like many of his contemporaries — sometimes used the ethereal impressionist style of New Wave cinema to make political statements that escaped the attention of censors.
Gaal displayed this talent in “The Falcons,” which he wrote and directed. Depicting a hunting camp under the icy control of a bureaucratic administrator, the film served as a cutting metaphor for Hungary’s communist-era dictatorship.
Gaal followed his Cannes success with the features “Dead Landscape” (1971), “Legato” (1977) and “Orpheus and Eurydice” (1985). When not directing, Gaal worked as a screenwriter and cinematographer, such as in Sandor Sara’s 1962 documentary “Gypsies.”
Gaal also experimented with television and with documentary films including “Cuba’s Ten Years,” “Uncle Beni” and “Roots I-III.”
His last credit was the made-for-television production “Kerala” in 2005.