Set in 1919, during the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Miklós Jancsó’s The Red and the White is a war film unlike any other. In the brutal Civil War which took place, Hungarian volunteers supported the ‘Red’ revolutionaries in a war of attrition against the ‘White’ counter-revolutionaries who were seeking to restore the old Czarist order.
Through its stylistic virtuosity, ritualistic power and sheer beauty, Jancsó invites us to study the mechanisms of power almost abstractly and with a cold eroticism that clearly portrays the utter futility of war. Although the film was an Hungarian-Russian co-production, the Russian authorities banned it from being shown anywhere in the Soviet Union. —Second Run
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
Superb use of movement and mise-en-scene. Empty, sparse and cold. Does not rely simply on brutality to explore the horrific absurdity of war. The civilian scene at the well is excellent. Now every time I see a group walking away from camera, I get nervous. A float down a dark river, drifting between scenes of clashing sides without a guide. In war clothing is worth more than lives. One more reason why Kino needs to be robbed of everything it owns.
In this under-stated film, narrative and character is de-emphasized while the aspects of filmmaking that are often over-looked when deriving meaning from a film (namely cinematography and sound) are… read review