Early piece from Ildikó Enyedi, watched as a film night with M.
Hard not to love at the start. Second Run released this recently, which makes connections between Edison’s lightbulb parade and the cover of Pictures of the Old World inevitable. The beauty of the cinematography is very different here, though: every shot could be paused and made into a participant’s documentary snap; we’re made to feel like part of the story in every vignette. This despite some overtly cinematic stylings, as in the early montage of technology and exploration, as well as the dog-eared situations like a train encounter, a boat rendezvous, shopping for necklaces. The conceit of the twin girls split on a Christmas night is lovably Dickensian, while the typographical labelling gives this a weirdly 21st-century ironic edge.
Casting Dorota Segda in both roles eventually feels unnecessarily confusing. Discussion with M revealed how many mistakes I had made, which is a problem when the theme of split-but-connected women’s experience revolves around cases of mistaken identity (usually at the expense of Oleg Yankovskiy’s reticently bewitched suitor. Again with the timelessness: couldn’t work out how the guy from Nostalghia had aged so well).
Then cracks and bumps begin to appear. Early references to the place of Hungary at the turn of the century are swerved around by an intriguing contrast of clandestine and aristocratic peripateticisms (an anarchist ghosting across Europe meets a listlessly aristocratic traveller). A Clockwork Orange montage sequence with an unwilling dog is amusing but forgotten. What was the Trouble In Paradise-style necklace switcheroo about? Most egregiously, and ultimately most disappointingly, the flaunted themes of women’s experience, technological change and providence are revealed to be cardboard set decoration, flat and decorative rather than investigated. M objected to the apparently hesitant imbalance between the misogynistic lecturer’s breathless characterisation of women as entirely sexual beings (a funny setpiece, nevertheless) and Dora’s repetitive seductions.
But because of its glittering, almost chocolate-box beauty, and its cosy silliness, it slips by and down with a warm charm. I did enjoy it the whole way through; it was only after it finished that it became increasingly hard to love.