Fable concerns Hungary of 1848, when the country’s most notorious gang of highwaymen joined the war of independence sparked by Kossuth. After the defeat of the revolution, they became outlaws again, and even snowballed in strength.
Finally the government decided to exterminate the outlaws and turned over the job to Count Gedeon Raday, who swung into action, giving no quarter. It is at this point that Miklos Jancso’s film takes up the story.
This is not a romantic adventure pic, crammed with galloping horesemen, wild chases and gunmen biting the dust. Action is pinned down to a single locale. Gendarmes pen up several hundred suspects in a stockade. They have proof that one of the men is guilty of a double murder, and promise him a pardon if he will finger a bigger fry. Scared out of his wits, Janos Gajdor (Janos Gorbe) makes a try.
This is a psycho pic, an anatomy of betrayal. Long focusing and ingenious camerawork build up tension. Closest thing to violence is a scene where a girl runs the gauntlet of interrogators.
Emotional strength is given to the plot by the desolate horizon of the Hungarian lowlands, minus any natural beauty.