The Fifth Seal is a Hungarian film directed by Zoltán Fábri, based on a novel of the same name by Ferenc Sánta. It won the Golden Prize at the 1977 Moscow International Film Festival.
Set in Budapest in 1944 towards the end of the Second World War, it tells the story of a group of friends, Miklós (Lajos Öze) a watchmaker, László (László Márkus) a book seller, János (Sándor Horváth) a carpenter, and Béla (Ferenc Bencze) a barkeep. They hang out in the dim light of Béla’s establishment, drinking, smoking and telling tales. One day a fifth man (István Dégi) joins their table and unbeknownst to them all, an innocent hypothetical question will change their lives forever.
It’s a slow moving picture, taking its time, perhaps a little too long with dialog to establish the characters and their familiarity with one another. But the acting is very natural and realistic, and it soon becomes evident that these are just regular Joes having fun, living their lives, trying not to draw any attention to themselves, while living under a fascist dictatorship; and despite whatever cultural background you are from, its difficult not to relate to these guys in some way.
The underlying question that the film deals with is a philosophical one. Given the choice, would you rather be reincarnated as a vicious and evil tyrant who commits terrible acts, or a good and noble slave who suffers through life? A choice that these four men ultimately face when they are arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for no apparent reason; and one that makes the viewer ponder about themselves and humanity as a whole. — Bonjour Tristesse
Born in 1917 in Budapest, died in 1994. Hungarian Director, graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts and acting faculty of the School of Dramatic Art in Budapest. His filmmaking career started as early as in the 1940s when he made some social realist style films, but he managed to surpass the ideological forms with the internationally appreciated melodrama Merry-Go-Round (Kőrhinta, 1995) and tragicomedy Professor Hannibal (Hannibál tanár úr, 1956, awarded in Karlovy Vary). Fábri’s talent flourished in the 1960s, when he made his most distinguished works in the atmosphere of liberalisation of censorship. The most outstanding films by Fábri include: the reckoning Twenty Hours (Húsz óra, 1964, Grand Prix in Moscow), social and political drama Late Season (Utószezon, 1966, awarded in Venice), popular adaptation of the novel by Ferenc Molnár The Boys from Paul Street (A pál-utcai fiúk, 1968) and the war film 141 Minutes… read more