The son of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, Crown Prince Rudolf, is believed to have shot his female lover and himself in a tragic suicide pact in 1882 in Mayerling. Due to Imperial cover-ups, the full story may never be known. This story has been filmed several times, in French in 1935 and in English in 1968. Hungarian director Miklos Jancso recreates those events for his own purposes, continuing his favored theme of the rejection of paternal authority. In the film, which has very little dialog, Rudolf is a good-natured pan-sexual golden boy, who cavorts on his rural estate with a host of beautiful, aristocratic lovers and friends of both sexes. He refuses to leave his country idyll even though he has been ordered to by the Emperor, his father. Despite the fact that for a large part of the film, attractive young people go about unclothed and engaging in erotic encounters, the mood is one of melancholy rather than prurience. The Prince is a political liberal who wishes to arrange things so that the Emperor will arrest him, creating a public scandal which will provide a rallying point for the opposition. Instead, when the expected troops come, Rudolf’s sensuous friends loyally ward off the Imperial officers, humiliating them in the process. The result is that the guests, the Prince and a hermaphrodite friend are killed by newly arrived Imperial reinforcements, and the now-familiar official story of murder and suicide is concocted for public consumption.
A key figure in the development of the new Hungarian cinema, filmmaker Miklós Jancsó earned international recognition for his films Szegénylegények/The Round-Up (1965), Csillagosok Katonák/The Red and the White (1967), and Csend és Kiáltás/Silence and Cry (1968). These films best reflect Jancsó’s tendency toward abstraction and contain a distinctive combination of revolutionary viewpoints and highly structured, formal cinematic style. Imagery is more important than dialogue, which is used sparingly to encourage audiences to contemplate Jancsó’s underlying messages. The director tends to place actors in geometric patterns that mirror the landscapes around them.
Born in Vac, Hungary, Jancsó studied ethnography and art history while earning his law degree in 1944. He spent several years in Transylvania doing ethnographic research before enrolling in Budapest’s Academy of Dramatic and Film Art, where he graduated in 1950. Jancsó began filming numerous newsreels… read more