Red Psalm (Meg ker a nep)

Red Psalm

Right to the people!

Miklos Jancso has two films on the List, and from what I gather, they are very similar, which doesn’t bode well for the other film of his I have left to get to after this one. Red Psalm’s original Hungarian title translates to “And the People Still Ask”, and if that sounds pretentious to you, you’re not alone. This is very much another of the type of film that seems to be of a one-man-show mentality, even though looking at the credits, it actually isn’t, but everyone involved with the production is so clearly in awe of Miklos Jancso and his creativity and vision that they will blindly do whatever he says, and thus we have Red Psalm, a film featuring a bunch of people literally going through the motions that the director has strung together in his absurdly long takes, pretty much for the sake of getting people to do them.

The film takes a page out of the same notebook Rope and Russian Ark do; it is constructed out of a series of long takes, meaning everything from the choreography to the cinematography to the acting has to be damn near perfect the whole way through, or the shot is ruined and they’d have to start it all over again. To make up for the lack of cuts in the film, there is a lot, a LOT of movement in the frame; people mill around, other people on horses constantly circle the main group of actors and trot around in the background, and the camera itself is rarely stationary for any brief moment of time. As for the plot, I wish I could tell you; it seems to be concerned with some sort of protest movement or revolt by a group of music-loving folk, as they spend the majority of the film frolicking in the fields to the various tunes and melodies played by the musicians, dancing and cavorting in various ways. There really seems to be no real plot here; to quote a review I found for this film, it all just seems to be for the benefit of the camera. There’s a pretty decent amount of political content to be had, which of course flew right over my head, as I am not Hungarian, but other than that, I really couldn’t tell you what this one was actually about.

This was another one that was very beautiful to look at, for differing reasons, but when you try and involve yourself in the film, in its plot or its message, you just come up empty handed. It’s like dipping your hands in a pot of beef stew, looking around for the chunks of good stuff for you to savor, but when you lift your hands up, you realize all that you’re holding is water; water that quickly seeps through your fingers and leaves your hands wet, but nonetheless empty. Really, this film was like a shiny bauble, or a toddler’s toy; there’s a lot of motion and sensual input to hold your interest, when there really isn’t actually anything going on, or anything of any real substance underneath. You can feel the actors not actually acting, but going through the choreographed motions and steps in their heads while they do them, to make sure they don’t screw anything up and have to do another take. This isn’t even really a film; it’s an interpretive dance, with lots of symbols and metaphors, but no actual entertainment value. Now, I won’t say that this doesn’t deserve to exist in its present state because of it; it is up to each artist to use the medium however they wish to use it, and to get across the message that they wish to get across, but to me, it won’t make the slightest bit of difference if there is no actual reason for anybody to see it, and I couldn’t find any real reason for anyone to see this one, aside from a brief lesson in choreography. That, however, isn’t why people go to the movies, and if this were playing at your local cineplex, I would more than likely advise you to steer clear.

Arbitrary Rating: 5/10

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