Miklós Jancsó Decline and Fall?

  • Graham Petrie


Miklós Jancsó first attracted world-wide attention at the age of 44 with his fourth feature-length film The Round-up (1965). The bleakness of the setting, the enigmatic and ritualistic quality of the dialogue and action, the apparent acceptance of cruelty, deceit and brutality as normal and inescapable elements of the political process combined both to fascinate and to repel Western audiences — whose sense of the utter strangeness of the film was intensified by an almost complete ignorance both of the historical moment in which the film was set and of a context of Hungarian cinema within which to place Jancsó’s achievement. Despite — or perhaps because of — these disadvantages, the film has come to be regarded as the quintessence of Jancsó’s stylistic and thematic concerns, with his later films being judged as to how fully they illuminate or consolidate the impact made by The Round-up. The appearance within a couple of years of The Red and the White (1967) and Silence and Cry (1968) seemed to confirm that Jancsó’s was a powerful but restricted talent, while the limited distribution of his later films (in North America at least) has reduced them to the status of puzzling and inconsequential doodles that add little to an oeuvre that seems to have reached its peak over a decade ago. (An instructive parallel to this might be the fact that Andrzej Wajda was, until very recently, regarded in the English-speaking world primarily as the director of Ashes and Diamonds and Kanal, with films of at least equal stature, such as Everything for Sale, The Wedding and Man of Marble, almost totally unknown.)


Camera Movement Closing Image Explicit Sexual Material Sexual Liberation Sequence Shot 
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Notes and References

  1. 4.
    Graham Petrie, History Must Answer to Man: the Contemporary Hungarian Cinema (Budapest: Corvina Kiadó, 1979).Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    For rather different, though likewise positive, accounts of these films, see the reviews by William Kelly (of Allegro Barbaro) and Karen Jaehne} (of Hungarian Rhapsody) in Film Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 1 (Fall 1980) pp. 47–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Graham Petrie 1983

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  • Graham Petrie

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