My Way Home (1965)

“There are few directors so akin to a choreographer. His cinema does not conform to narrative or psychological conventions, but opens other areas that are usually found in the screen musical. His films are elaborate ballets, emblematically tracing the movements in the fight for Hungarian independence and socialism. In these ritual dances of life and death the Whites defeat the Reds, the Reds defeat the Whites. Tyranny is everywhere, and men and women, stripped of their clothes, are vulnerable and humiliated – nudes in a landscape. People survive in groups, often singing and dancing.”

‘My Way Home’, directed by Miklós Jancsó in 1965, is a Hungarian war drama. A young man wanders through Russian-occupied Hungary during the Second World War. On his journey through the countryside he is repeatedly arrested, detained and assigned duties, including helping a Russian soldier look after cows. As the pair tend to the livestock, they develop a strange relationship that transforms them back into children. Like Jancsó’s later films, including ‘The Round-Up’ (1966), ‘The Red and the White’ (1967) and the masterpiece ‘Red Psalm’ (1972), it is the style of this film that makes it so distinctive. Jancsó films in balletic, long takes allowing the characters to pass from one situation to another seemingly choreographed but somehow in a way that feels natural. Perhaps there is a degree of unnatural naturalism about the director, his directorial hand is very much in evidence, but the ultimate effect is to focus the viewer on the central characters and to place them in their shoes. Jancsó films everything outside, so his film, like ‘The Red and the White’ and ‘Red Psalm’ blurs the lines between landscape and people, at times losing the characters in the fields and ruins of villages. There is a sense of play about his films, a feeling that his method is to gather a cast together and then to improvise a story, but the tightness of the movement and the intricacy of the camerawork belies this. In the end, this film is a moving drama about the effects of war on the young, and the madness that it can lead to.

Would I recommend it? Yes – watch with Elem Klimov’s ‘Come and See’, a later and far more brutal movie with a similar focus. Compare the closing moments of each.

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