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A Scene from Miklos Jancso’s Red Psalm

I’ve always thought of Jancso as one of the very few filmmakers, along with Godard, who could turn abstract ideas into visual sequences that could be absorbed without requiring viewers to engage in theorizing themselves. (In contrast, Pasolini’s Teorema is the sort of thing that demands active theoretical engagement not to be boring and banal. The same goes for most of the work of Alexander Kluge, though I like Kluge a lot more.) After abandoning concrete plot and character in The Red and the White, he relies on this talent to make his movies compelling. When it works, there and in Electra My Love, he is nearly unmatched. When it doesn’t work, as in Hungarian Rhapsody, I appreciate the successes even more.

The above clip is from Red Psalm. The sequence beginning about eight minutes in is for me one of his finest moments. He choreographs something abstract and historical into visceral, visual movement. It transcends the Communist restrictions and ideology without abandoning a coherent conceptual meaning, one which does not match up with the dogmatic dialogue.

Godard, though he tries hard, never quite manages to hold onto this sort of coherence, and I just get lost in the images and anarchic inventiveness.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for bringing attention to Jancso. One cannot imagine the thought behind the scene 8ā€™ in, except in the boldest, sheerly creative moment.

    Iā€™m with you that the artist turns the abstract idea into visual sequence ,which then the viewer, by nature, turns back into abstract idea. No? Call it theorizing if words come, but always interpretation.

    Engagement seems always there, with the raw stuff of the scene ā€” because we recognize it as a collection of objects in the world. We cannot help but draw connections, even without artistic intention there. Although here, the straightforward ideology, straightforward action, works like a magic on the intelligence ā€” one is less at work, more a witness.

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