Peter Scherer

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Kontroll Review


Very Good
An example of seductive sensory cinema in which atmospheric sound and image trump narrative depth, Nimród Antal's beguiling Kontroll concerns ticket inspectors in Budapest's labyrinth subway system forced to deal with fare-evaders and, more troublingly, a psycho who's shoving unsuspecting victims under moving trains. Yet less a mystery or thriller than a psychedelic examination of amplifying psychosis, Antal's debut focuses on Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi), a disinterested subway employee who sleeps on the station floors (instead of going home) and likes to risk death by "railing" (a game in which one furiously runs behind the evening's last commuter train, and in front of the Midnight Express). Bulcsú has hermetically sealed himself off from reality, choosing to bury himself alive in a locomotive-filled prison as a means of fleeing some unspecified past trauma. And Antal's film - through a combination of Gyula Pados' stunning and mind-bending cinematography and Neo's throbbing score - depicts his underground home as a metaphor for his growing psychological and emotional isolation.

A disinterest in conventional genre elements generally works to this Hungarian import's advantage, as its allegorical plot is bolstered by a stunning blend of audio and visual ingenuity. Antal and Pados drench their film in grimy greens, decaying blacks, and a dearth of natural illumination - shot on location on Budapest's subway platforms and tracks, the film is awash in flickering, eye-searing fluorescent lights. Yet theirs is not a cinema vérité aesthetic; rather, their inventively disorienting, trancelike cinematography turns the train station into a surrealistic cocoon populated by glassy-eyed malcontents divorced from normal Earthly sensations like sunlight and wind. "This just proves my point. You are a product of your environment," someone says early on about Bulcsú's growing instability, yet the point also applies to Kontroll itself, which defines itself via its claustrophobic, secluded, and progressively more fantastic setting. Set to Neo's antsy electronic score - which skips and stutters with manic intensity, reflecting Bulcsú's jittery, fraying state of mind - Antal's film is like a disquieting techno lullaby in which the serene and the manic, the real and the unreal, contentedly coexist.

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