Keby som mal pušku (1971)

23 12 2008

Another great film from the unjustly neglected Stefan Uher, though it has very little in common with his equally great Sun in a Net. (Slnko v sieti, 1962) That film is more of a Antonioni-esque relationship driven mood piece, while this is one that is built almost entirely on its energetic aesthetic. To give a good idea of the film’s overall feeling, I’d look at the sequence in Werckmeister Harmonies with the little kids jumping on a bed, refusing to go to sleep. It has the art of Tarr’s work, but it also has a sense of humor about itself and never becomes overly-ponderous.

Continuing with the comparisons to Hungarian filmmakers, Uher does remind me a little bit of Miklos Jancso here, but only in the sense of the camera’s freedom. Like Jancso’s work, this film feels extremely “open” if only for the fact that camera seems to become a character all on its own. Uher doesn’t use the floating, tracking shot, though, instead he goes the route of shaky and/or steadicam. Maybe it is a bit manipulative in the sense that it is obviously trying to come off as sponteanous, but it comes off as, well, sponteanous. It probably also helps that Uher’s content, following around teenage headcases is far more interesting, at least to me, than Jancso’s political examinations.

Even if the camera work wasn’t so wonderful, there would still be enough of that “kids being kids” material that I would probably love the film anyway. I probably use this description one times too many, but this is definitely a “glue-sniffing” story. To put things into perspective, the children here are crazy enough to even attempt to circumcise themselves, only to win a bet, in which the prize is a knife. I guess it could be argued that I shouldn’t be so easy on the whole transgressive teens genre, but its a personal thing, I suppose.

In my (and more importantly Uher’s) defense, all these crazy and sponteanous moments are absolutely beautiful to look at. One of the few things carried over from Uher’s Sun in a Net is the wonderful sensory-filled close-ups that, in this case, are composed among wide-angle lens shots that bring to mind Wong Kar-Wai’s work of the mid-90s. Taking how groundbreaking the two films I’ve seen from Uher are, it is a shame that more people don’t know about him. I know there’s plenty of people out there that would absolutely love this, but unfortunately, Uher has yet to get any substantal attention in the west.

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