Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In A Noisy Place

Hukkle (2002) directed by Gyorgy Palfi

Close up on bubbles in a glass, cut to frog underwater swimming, frog gets eaten by fish, fish swims and gets caught by fisherman, fish is taken home and eaten by fisherman, whose wife has poisoned his dinner.
One of the best minimalist films Ive ever seen. No other film pays more attention to plants, animals, and machines, and their role as noise makers. This film basically follows around noises and sounds, orbiting an old man sitting on his porch hiccuping (Hukkle means "hiccup"). The first scene is a snake crawling from under a rock, with a microphone to the earth, so that we get slithering in high def. The sounds become almost unbearable.
There's no story to speak of, just episodes around a town in the daily lives of rural Hungarian people. First time director Gyorgy Palfi knows how to play into our pre-conceptions of the eccentric folksy villages in one scene we go from watching a man bowling, to a close up of a pigs over inflated testicles, to the pig being walked to a neighbors house to mate with a sow.The two neighbors, smile watching the pigs have sex.
Again and again we start from small images, which expand and expand into a situation, either absurd or grotesque, but always more than could have been initially imagined. A fish bowl, make take us to a lake with a corpse glimpsed on it's bottom as casually as it would any other underwater creature or plant. The "plot" to speak of involves women discreetly trading bottles, serving food, and attending the funerals of their husbands. Their activities are observed discreetly and with a kind of Godlike nonchalance, that pays as much attention to them as it does to an engine starting, a plane passing, or a kitten on its back in a field.
The content of the film, which seems to demand investigation like a traditional murder mystery, is resisted by the style which seems transcendentally fascinated with tinniest sounds and how they blend into the harmonies of a whole. If there is any such thing as "whole" or "harmony", the film is called "hiccup" after all. Which sounds fit in organically and which ones are hiccups? What is normal life, the villagers working, the animals eating each other just beneath the grass(think of those insects from the beginning of "Blue Velvet"), or the women poisoning their men folk? Would listening to any single sound, allow you to understand the town.
Like the recent "Limits Of Control", this film manages to balance the serene stillness of the world as we see it, with the suspicion and pull towards looking at the deeper, darker, or perhaps more natural world we ignore as white noise. At this point I should mention there is no dialogue in this film, accept a brief song, sung by girls at a wedding at the end(which solves the case as it were). This was based on a real case, called "The Angel Makers Of Nagyrev", were two women over 15 years in the early half of last century assisted in the poisonings of 50-300 men, as accounts vary. All we understand of the film, we observe and listen to, though word wise it's a nearly mute movie, its far from silent. It whistles, beeps, hums, drones, and finally sings, like a gust of wind rattling a tree on a lone hill, or the gargled death throws of a man dropped dead suddenly in the street.

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