Kontrol

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Kontrol
Review (9/10)
(By Will Perkins)

When one thinks of countries that produce good films, Hungary does not often come to mind. The surreal film Kontroll from first time director Nimrod Antal aims to change that perception. Kontroll centres on a rag-tag group of ticket inspectors (kontroll agents) who work under less than ideal conditions in the Budapest subway system. One of these inspectors, a downtrodden young man named Bulcsu (Sandor Csanyi) is homeless and spends 24 hours a day underground, living and working in the subway system. The job of kontroll agent is not an easy one. Bulcsu and his fellow inspectors have to put up with angry superiors, violent hooligans, clueless tourists and rival ticket inspection teams on a daily basis. Through a series of chance encounters, Bulcsu befriends a beautiful young woman Szofi (Eszter Balla), who for whatever reason always wears a giant bear suit while riding the subway. At night, Bulcsu wanders the tunnels and furthest depths of the underground, all the while plagued by an ever present shadowy figure, who may or may not be a figment of his imagination. The depression and confusion associated with working and living underground is beginning to take its toll on Bulcsu. He hasn't seen the light of day in months and begins to question the course his life has taken. Things take a turn for the worse after a series of deaths caused by a pusher - and Bulcsu is the prime suspect. Immediately, Bulcsu begins to suspect that the shadowy figure who has been stalking him is behind the murders. Bulcsu now has a purpose in life, with the help of Szofi and his fellow kontroll agents he sets out to catch the shadow in the act, and in the process clear his name.

If only all first time directors could be as lucky as Nimrod Antal. Kontroll works so well, in so many ways. The story has a darker tone, but there is definitely a lot of laughs in this movie. The supporting cast is stellar, and work so well you'd swear they really were kontroll agents. As for the two lead characters of Bulcsu and Szofi, Sandor Csanyi and Eszter Balla have an on screen chemistry that is very difficult to capture on film, but Antal gets it. Perhaps the strongest character in the film is the location. Shot on location in the Budapest subway system, the tunnels and stations have a life of their own. Antal seems to have found some of the most eerie and crazy underground locales ever put on film. The cinematography was amazing, it helped capture the dreary, vastness of the underground. Also, the soundtrack was very cool and it suits the tone of the film perfectly. One sequence of the film stood out in my mind, the rail run. Bulcsu and a rival inspector attempt to race one another on foot between two subway stations, this bit will have you on the edge of your seats.

My only real qualm with the film was that some of the more abstract elements were not explained as well as they could have been. Nimrod Antal said he did this on purpose to leave things open for interpretation, but sometimes I want a director to tell me what he's really trying to get at. Other than that, some people may take issue with the fact that the movie is subtitled, but I don't think I would have liked the movie as much if the voices had been dubbed.

Kontroll is the kind of movie destined for cult status. The movie is dark, moody, serious and funny all at the same time. It is definitely not a movie for everybody. But if you're in the mood for something different this weekend check out Kontroll. You will be in store for a unique film experience, guaranteed.

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