Friday, May 9, 2008

Film Review: Edes Anna

"Edes Anna" *** 1\2 (out of ****)

As you can probably tell I've been reviewing a lot of Hungarian movies lately. For one reason or another I have been watching many films from Hungary lately. This trend will not last long, so please bear with me. In the end though, perhaps you have not heard of these films and are learning about something new. Secondly, as for my decision not to include this in my "masterpiece film series". The film does offer a classic performance given by Mari Toricsik but I would not say overall the film is a "masterpiece" in the same vein another recently reviewed Zoltan Fabri film was, "Korhinta". Just because I will review older titles now and then does not mean they are all classics.

"Edes Anna" as I have already stated was directed by Zoltan Fabri and was his follow up collaboration with "Korhinta (The Merry-Go-Round)" star Mari Torocsik. Here the two play with the image which was created for Torocsik in that previous film. In "Korhinta" Mari's character was a sweet, innocent girl deeply in love with a man her father would not let her marry for political reasons. In "Edes Anna" Torocsik continues to play the innocent girl but with more distrubing results.

The film takes us back to 1919. World War One has ended as the dominate powers (Communinst) have lost power. In many ways the film is about class warfare. Now that the communist have lost power the bourgeoisie have regained power. We see this clearly in the Vizy household. Mr. & Mrs. Vizy (Karoly Kovacs and Maria Mezei) have employed several peasant servants who happened to be communist. But now with the war over communist are shunned. Many are rounded up and shot. Knowing this one of their employees, Ficsor (Bela Barsi) tries to get into their good graces by recommending a new maid since the couple is having trouble with the current one. He recommends his god-daughter, Edes Anna (Torocsik).

At first Anna does not want to work in the Vizy household she enjoys her current job working for another family, watching their son. But, since Ficsor fears being outed as a communist, forces the girl to leave.

Very soon the Vizy's comes to like Anna. She is quite, hard working and provides no problems of any kind for the family. Still though, they feel they have a slight edge over her since she is a peasant. In one scene a dinner party is given as we hear the guest discuss servants. Mrs. Vizy takes great pride in showing off Anna, as something like a trophy. But soon we hear the guest criticize the working class. One guest even goes as far as saying he does not believe in equality concerning the classes. "Servants are different. Their souls and stomachs are different" he declares. Within this scene we can clearly see the bourgeoisie attitude.

But "Edes Anna" soon becomes something more. One day the Vizy's nephew, Jancsi (Zsigmond Fulop) returns home from the war. Anna seems immediately struck by him and he does not treat her the same way others of his class do. Unfortunately Jancsi gets Anna pregnant and because of the difference of social rank he decides it would be best for him if Anna aborts the child. After which he begins to shut her out of his life.

It is after this the film begins to take a sharp turn. It veers away from being a story about social class and turns into a story about young love and a young woman's desire to be a mother.

"Edes Anna" resembles the work of Claude Chabrol in some ways. We are dealing with family secrets of the rich (a young man getting his maid pregnant) and exposing them for how ugly they really are. We are seeing underneath the surface. Plus, as in most Chabrol films, events turn deadly. But "Edes Anna" was released in 1958 a year before Chabrol's first film and the start of the French New Wave, "Le Beau Serge".

The film also takes on some hidden political meaning. When "Korhinta" was released it was in 1956, but released months before the uprising in October. Now with those events behind them "Edes Anna" comments on regime changes and the effects it brings on social class. One of the ideas behind communism was equality between the classes. All men are equal. Which is why at the dinner party we hear one of the bourgeoisie guest says he does not believe in equality between the classes.

Like "Korhinta" Fabri seems to fall on the side of the workers. We have sympathy for Anna. We see how hard life is for her and the way she is disregarded. Especially after her abortion. Fabri seems to be a director of the workers.

"Edes Anna" was based on a novel written by Dezso Kosztolanyi and adapted by Fabri and Peter Bacso. Bacso would later become a well known filmmaker himself, directing "A Tanu (The Witness)" a comedy masterpiece showing life under communist rule. He also wrote Karoly Makk's masterpiece about life under communism "Szerelem (Love)". The film was also nominated for a palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959.