After a difficult start, Hungarian cinema gained momentum, starting in 1912, with one of the first feature films, N ő verék . (“Sisters”) of Ö. Uher. This film was followed by many others, to the point that on the threshold of the First World War, Hungarian cinema was one of the most prosperous in Europe.
The world conflict, however, took breath away from the nascent industry which, suffocated moreover by the climate of repression following the power of B. Kun, could only recover during the Thirties, when the production did not offer anything significant, however, limiting itself to light comedies that they did the verse at E. Lubitsch’s cinema. It was in 1942 that an original and interesting work was released, Emberek a havason (“Men of the mountain”) by I. Szőts, which was followed in 1947 by the touching Valahol Európában (“Somewhere in Europe”) by G. Radvány (b. 1907). Despite the good results, these years were marked by an unstoppable economic crisis; the film industry, sick like the other businesses of the state, reduced annual production to very few films. Although with many ideological limits, it was the Stalinist politics of the 1950s that favored the resumption of cinema, reviving the fortunes of the industry and favoring the growth of that generation of filmmakers who will give life to one of the liveliest of the nouvelles vagues of the 1960s.. I. Gaál, F. Kardos, I. Szabó, F. Kósa, P. Bacsó, Z. Fábri, M. Jancsó, and other talented filmmakers came together ideally forming a current carrying profound questions essentially linked to the history of the country, Szegénylegények (“The Desperate of Sandor”, 1965) and Csillagosok, katonák (“The Army on Horseback”, 1967) by Jancsó, or to political vicissitudes, as in the case of Magasiskola (“The Falcons”, 1970) by Gaál and Falak (“The walls”, 1968) by Kovács. For Hungary 2010, please check programingplease.com.
In the seventies we witness the consolidation of the ideas expressed by the Magyar nouvelle vague, increasingly appreciated by international critics, but whose definitive consecration will come only in 1982, with the Oscar prize to Mephisto (1981) by Szabó. The directors who subsequently join the masters Jancsó, Fábri, Kovács, Gaál often move in an area of extreme professionalism, however few are those who are able to express a truly personal poetics. Among these, the directors M. Mészáros (b. 1931) deserve special attention, of which we mention Anna (1981), Napló gyermekeimnek (1984, “Diary for my children”), Napló szerelmeimnek (1987, “Diary for my loves “) and Napló apámnak, anyáminak (1989, “Diary for my father and my mother”) and J. Elek (b. 1937), author among other things of Egyszerú t ő rténet (1974, “A simple story”), Márai-nap (1983, “The feast of Mary”), Tutajosok (1988, “The rowers of the river”), Ébredes (“Awakening”, 1994). Through their vibrant and problematic cinema, the difficult relationship between public and private in a country troubled by deep political troubles transpires with clarity and at the same time with suffering.
A prominent place in the history of Hungarian cinema is occupied by the activity of Studio Béla Balázs, where – since the 1960s – several generations of filmmakers have had the opportunity to make short films with a subject in relative ideological and economic freedom (the most famous are those of I. Szabó), documentaries (the works of I. Dárday, B. Tarr and others, also known as founders of the so-called Budapest School) or experimental films (the best known character in this field is G. Bédy, who committed suicide in 1985).
Starting in the late seventies, some new talents have emerged, eg. A. Jeles, whose A kis Valentino (“Little Valentino”, 1979) gives a precise diagnosis of the state of mind of a young marginalized in the Hungarian society of the time; P. Gothár especially for Megáll az idó (“The suspended time”, 1981), which evokes the bittersweet memories of his own generation matured in the Hungary after 1956; and also B. Tarr, whose feature films (among them Kárhozat, “Damnation”, 1987) express the profound existential and moral crisis of the citizens of a dying regime. A Hungarian Film Week, organized every year in Budapest, allows us to measure the commitment of the authors who, with ever increasing difficulty, manage to assert their national identity.