May 9, 2009

Delta [18]

Dir: Kornel Mundruczo
If you like your movies big, loud and eventful, stick with Star Trek this week. This Hungarian drama moves so slowly that at times it seems to be at a total standstill, but there are definitely rewards to be had here.

Delta sees a young man (Felix Lajko) returning to the area where he grew up, in order to build a home on the river. On arrival he meets his beautiful half-sister (Orsi Toth), enlisting her help with the building the two start to become closer, moving in together, to the general disapproval and suspicion of their small community. There is a striking and pervasive sense of impending doom to this movie, which keeps it engaging despite the fact that it is so extremely slow.

Composed, largely, in a series of tableau in which the camera moves very little the film often feels like a series of paintings put to film.  Certainly most of its frames could easily hang on the walls of an art gallery. The preoccupation with the beauty of nature, and the silent interaction between characters often calls to mind the work of Terence Malick. This will likely be one of the best looking films of this year, sadly its not one of the best films of the year as a whole.

The performances of Lajko and Toth are extremely expressive and commendably subtle given that they’ve got next to no dialogue with which to communicate their relationship. The problem with the film is that it is so austere that it ends up being somewhat hard to get into at any level aside from admiration of its visual beauty.  A couple of events in the film are meant to shock, but we’re so far removed from them that they aren’t really able to, appalling as the events are.

Delta is a fine showcase for director Kornel Mundruzco and cinematographer Matayas Erdely, but while it’s an admirable and handsome film it’s so wilfully distancing in its pursuit of beauty that it is tough to truly enjoy.

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