The Martlet attended several films at this year’s 25th Victoria Film Festival. Here are some of our favourites.
Eternal Winter (Örök tél in Hungarian) is the heart-wrenching story of a Hungarian woman in the 1940s who falls in love during her imprisonment in a Soviet labour camp. Irén Walter (Maria Gera) is a Hungarian woman forced into a camp because of her German heritage, but is determined to make it home. The Soviets are collecting anyone of German descent to work in labour camps, rebuilding after the Nazis’ destruction in WWII.
From the moment Irén is taken from her home in Hungary, the story keeps asking: will she make it home?
Throughout most of the first half of the film it is hard to believe that Irén will make it out alive. Irén befriends a deaf girl named Anna (Laura Döbrösi) who poses an obstacle to Irén’s goal of making it home. Irén helps Anna by working with her in a small coal mine where the work is nearly impossible. After weeks of working into the night and returning to the camp with nothing to eat, Anna develops typhoid. In the saddest scene of the movie, Irén gives away her wedding ring to get Anna medicine, only to watch Anna die in the cold and get eaten by a wolf before the medicine arrives.
After Irén loses Anna, she has very little to hold onto and develops typhoid. She is very weak when Rajmund (Sándor Csányi) comes and takes her from a room filled with other dying prisoners. Rajmund bribes the doctor with cigarettes, allowing Irén to receive the care she needs. The two fall in love and Rajmund shows Irén not just how to survive, but also how to salvage a little bit of dignity within the camp.
Rajmund is a friend to Irén, but also makes achieving her goal of getting home more difficult. He helps Irén through her immediate goal of survival by getting her treatment and by bringing her supplies. However, he tells her that when it comes to thinking about returning home, “there’s no remembering, there’s no dreaming.” This is something that Irén cannot accept.
Irén and Rajmund’s love is what helps them survive. They work together, eat together, and, as time passes and the prisoners get more liberties, they eventually end up living together.
When it is finally time to leave, Rajmund tries to convince Irén to declare herself a German and begin a new life with him. Unbeknownst to him, however, Irén chooses to return home to Hungary, and Rajmund is left alone.
Eternal Winter made it’s B.C. Premier at the Victoria Film Festival this February, and Director Attila Szász is to be applauded for his work. Having already won Best Director at the Montreal Film Festival, we should expect to see Szasz receive more recognition in the future.
Breandan McGhee of the Reel Rant podcast
The hosts of the Reel Rant podcast were excited to celebrate the Victoria Film Festival’s 25th anniversary by watching Joe Penna’s Arctic starring Mads Mikkelsen.
In a moment of kismet, the film played to a sold-out theatre the ame night the snow arrived in Victoria.
Obviously, a film starring Mads Mikkelsen is bound to be a crowd pleaser. But check out the Reel Rant’s “Rant #54” to hear our specific thoughts on it.
And if you’re looking for new podcast, the Reel Rant focuses on bringing people together through film as way to hear everyone’s individual perspectives and stories.
You can stream the Reel Rant podcast directly through their website at www.thereelrant.com.
On Feb. 2, I had the pleasure seeing the Bojarín siblings’ innovative family documentary 306 Hollywood, as part of the Victoria Film Festival’s 25th anniversary. The film details the story of their Grandma Annette, as told through the items in her home after her death in 2001.
Through thorough investigation and artistic organization, the Bojaríns attempt to recreate the past in an effort to keep her spirit alive. Those searching for a conventional plot should seek elsewhere; this film plays like a life. It is bound slightly to chronology, but lacks a definite beginning-middle-end, moving more through memories and musings than events in a sequence.
Creators Elan and Jonathan had heaps of footage before they began shooting. For a decade they filmed annual interviews with Grandma, and found audiotapes dating from even further back. This served as part of the inspiration to “turn Grandma’s house into an archeological dig,” given everything she owned lost its purpose when she died. From postcards to party dresses, band-aid boxes and old bills, everything is subjected to further inspection in 306 Hollywood. Over a period of 11 months, the siblings dug through the contents of the house and pieced together the story of an ordinary woman.
What spoke most to me about the film was the cinematography. It is dreamy and captivating, meant to draw the viewer away from its more mundane subject matter. The use of mirrors, shadow play, and magnification offer just a few examples of their perceptual bending. The mixing of home videos with post-humous footage of the house draws us away from the solid world of the present. It feels less like you’re watching something unfold, and more as though you’re adrift in a sea of ruminations.
Through interviews with historians, archeologists, and physicists, we are asked to wonder what happens after we die. What traces of our lives will remain? How impactful are the actions of one individual? Though this is not a film of answers, 306 Hollywood warmly invites you to ask.