Opening 10 Feb 2005
Bulcsú (29-year-old Sándor Csányi) checks tickets in the Budapest subway. He works with a team of misfits who have landed this unappealing, underground job by default. They are unpopular with the passengers, especially one, Bootsie, who always manages to escape their interrogations. More serious is a murderer who shoves innocent people onto the tracks. He wears a long cloak with a hood, much like the Grim Reaper. Bulcsú plays a macho game with a rival: they jump onto the tracks in front of the last train of the evening and race to the next station before the train can kill them. The ending is optimistic as Bulcsú rides the escalator into the sunlight with a pretty girl on his arm.
The year, according to director Nimród Antal, “could be anywhere between 1950 and 2050.” The four old escalators are faster, steeper and louder than any in Hamburg. The cold neon lights cast shadows and flicker into total blackness. Rock group NEO composed the music. The gloom, aggressiveness and hopelessness are interspersed with little sparks of black humor. One scene of the ticket checkers sitting together could be straight out of Coffee and Cigarettes. Antal filmed on location every night from 11:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. for nine months. The Budapest subway, built in 1896, is the oldest on the European mainland. A stipulation to receive permission to film in the subway was that the Director of Transportation be allowed to read a statement saying the film does not resemble the reality of subway travel in Budapest. The stilted, socialist style of this disclaimer makes it very funny for the audience.
Anatal has created an excellent thriller leaving your imagination to fill in the scary parts. It was the opening film at Hamburg’s last Fantasy Film Festival. It is Hungary’s candidate for this year’s Academy Award. Anatal has already won the Prix de la Jeunesse in Cannes for this, his first feature film. (Becky Tan)