on November 14, 2003 by Jordan Reed
Conversation is overrated. "Hukkle"--which means "hiccup" in Hungarian--contains almost no dialogue, consisting instead of the natural audible emanations of man, beast and machine as the film follows all three in, around, above and below a small rural town. Starting with an old man having the eponymous condition, everything becomes fair game for the camera's--and microphone's--attentions, including the impressive testicles of a randy pig, the complex, stuttering gears of a sewing machine and the underground putterings of a garden mole.

Initially magnifying the intricacies and textures of both flesh and metal by using extreme close-ups, director Gyorgy Palfi soon manages to expand his realm, without losing his intensely amplified focus, to include a "plot" involving a few suspicious deaths in the intermingling community. While this stab at narrative ultimately confuses and fails, it hardly hurts the philosophical, experimental profundity of "Hukkle." By merely capturing the seemingly simple images of work and play, human and synthetic, Palfi constantly juxtaposes the natural and industrial realms to startling effect. It's a profound examination of the relationship between the two, albeit on a smaller and less theatrical scale than Godfrey Reggio's existentially themed "Koyaanisqatsi" (1983). "Hukkle" doesn't judge modernity as harshly as "Koyaanisqatsi," but maybe that's because modernity hasn't yet hit too hard this tiny Hungarian burg.

On a more random note, "Hukkle" contains one of the more memorable film images in quite some time: an earthshakingly loud fighter jet skims over a river and under a small footbridge before climbing back up into the sky. It's obviously a special effect, complete with an extreme slo-mo shot allowing the camera to linger over the sleek black body of the hulking plane as it reflects the sunlight before darting off, but the result is extraordinary. It's like a dream transferred directly from the depths of the unconscious onto celluloid. Starring Ferenc Bandi, Jozsefne Racz and Jozsef Farkas. Directed and written by Gyorgy Palfi. Produced by Csaba Bereczki and Andras Bohm. A Shadow release. Drama. Hungarian-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 75 min

Tags: Ferenc Bandi, Jozsefne Racz, Jozsef Farkas, Directed and written by Gyorgy Palfi, Produced by Csaba Bereczki, Andras Bohm, A Shadow release, Drama, confuses, relationship, memorable, river, plan, extraordinary

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