Film: Katalin Varga

This is a deeply unsettling film which does not do much for the reputation of Hungarian/Romanian men.

Filmed and set in Transylvania, English director Peter Strickland's first film, (made on a shoestring) is a kind of Eastern European take on Thomas Hardy mixed with Deliverance.  Instead of banjos there are gypsy violins. It tells the story of a young woman, Katalin  (Hilda Peter) and her son  Orban (Norbert Tanko)  who are ordered to leave their village by her angry husband.  Why? Well it transpires that the son was not his - she had been raped by someone else. The traumatised pair leave in a horse-drawn cart and begin a meandering journey through beautiful countryside, with not a telegraph pole or car in sight. Only people's mobile phones makes you realise this is the 21st century.  Katalin tells Orban they are going to visit his grandmother, while in fact she has darker plans, ones that may lead them into great danger.

There are quite a few folksy religious references. People say Grace and Katalin recites a Hail Mary at one point. But there is little redemption in  the story.

Several things make this bleak revenge tragedy worth watching. It is nicely filmed with an unusual other-worldly score -  part choral, part electronic, by Steven Stapleton and Geoff Cox. It is fascinating to see what Transylvania looks like. But most compelling of all are the performances - Hilda Peter in particular is extraordinary. And all the actors have such exotic faces -  they  look as though they have stepped out of an old painting. It will be interesting to see more from them and Peter Strickland in future.

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