For the first time ever, two Hungarian films are competing for the Berlinale’s Golden Bear: “Forest – I See You Everywhere,” a standalone sequel to the 2003 Berlinale hit “Forest,” from veteran auteur Bence Fliegauf, and “Natural Light” from feature debutant Dénes Nagy. Csaba Káel, chairman of the National Film Institute of Hungary (NFI), says, “I believe it demonstrates the vitality and strength of the Hungarian industry flourishing despite the unprecedented circumstances caused by the pandemic worldwide.”
The two films represent opposite poles of current Hungarian filmmaking. Brimming with discourse, the independently funded “Forest” tells multiple complex, engaging stories of contemporary life in Hungary. And as he did in his Berlinale-winner “Just the Wind” (2012), Fliegauf creates deep empathy for his characters who deliver standout performances.
On the other hand, “Natural Light,” with its minimal dialogue, harks back to an older tradition in Hungarian cinema, where stunning cinematography leads the other formal elements. Performed by amateurs chosen for their striking faces, this tale of moral disquiet amidst WWII was developed over many years and supported by the NFI and Torino Film Lab.
Hungary also fields a robust presence across other sections of the festival. As helmer-writer Ildikó Enyedi (a 2017 Golden Bear winner for “On Body and Soul”) serves on the international jury, a TV series she directed, the period spy drama “Balaton Brigade” from creators Gábor Krigler, Balázs Lengyel and Balázs Lovas of Joyrider & Film Force, emerged the winner of the Séries Mania Project Exchange Award at the Berlinale Co-Pro Series pitching event, earning it a spot at the Séries Mania festival in Lille. Meanwhile, Berlin-based Films Boutique is selling Enyedi’s latest feature, the Hungary-Germany-Italy-France co-production “The Story of My Wife” (pictured), which is expected to appear at a major festival later this year. The adaptation of Milán Füst’s literary sensation stars Lea Seydoux, Louis Garrel and Gijs Naber.
Actor Natasa Stork, an intoxicating, enigmatic presence in this year’s Hungarian Oscar submission “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time” from director-writer Lili Horvát (distributed Stateside by Greenwich Entertainment) is among European Film Promotion’s 2021 Shooting Stars. The prize-winning performer next essays thirty-something twins in the dramedy “Ice Cream Could Be Dangerous,” a promising first feature directed by Fanni Szilágyi. The film, a selection of the NFI’s Incubator program, is now in post.
It’s not just “The Story of My Wife” and “Ice Cream Could Be Dangerous” in the pipeline. The NFI’s Káel notes, “More than 30 full-length features are in post-production, ready to launch internationally this year.” This includes emerging talents with their first movies and established filmmakers, as well as the thriller “The Grandson” from helmer Kristóf Deák, who already won an Oscar for his short “Sing.”
Other notable NFI-funded titles coming soon include the suspenseful spy thriller “The Game” from director Péter Fazakas (“The Exam”) set in 1960s Budapest; and “Katinka — The Movie,” an ambitious portrait of Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú, a three-time Olympic champion and seven-time World Champion. The Norbert Pálinkás documentary follows her as she prepares for the greatest challenge of her life: the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Further down the pike comes a new project from “Son of Saul” Oscar-winner László Nemes, who is in pre-production on “The Orphan.” Meanwhile, helmer Barnabás Tóth, Oscar-shortlisted last year in the international film category for “Those Who Remain,” will shoot his next project, “The Royal Game,” this spring. Freely based on a short story by Stefan Zweig, he sets the action on a train in 1956, with refugees fleeing the reprisals of the failed uprising. The two-million-dollar picture is produced by János Szurmay of the company Innoplay, a newcomer to the Hungarian industry.