Abandoned | Chicago Reader


Arpad Sopsits's latest film unfolds in familiar territory—a Stalinist orphanage whose institutionalized hopelessness can stand for any authoritarian regime's—and in a few short months the prepubescent hero accumulates as much psychological baggage as if he'd endured decades of repression. Set in Hungary shortly after the 1956 uprising, the story plays out in microcosm its own saga of revolt, flight, and survivor guilt. There are nominal villains (the sadistic, pedophilic headmaster) and good guys (the dissident scientist punished by being sent to the boondocks to teach orphans), but they come off less as stereotypes than as respondents to the job description. The real drama unfolds in the complex relationships of the inmate kids to one another and to the institutions that seek to mold their characters. Lately, Hungarian movies have cornered the market on depression; the films of Bela Tarr, Janos Szasz, or Gyorgy Feher—often in black and white and unrelieved gray or, as here, in dark blues and blacks, under leaden skies, with rain or snow, and surrounded by night—seem shot in purgatory. Yet for all its dreary trappings, Abandoned possesses a remarkable distance and clarity that are promises in themselves. 98 min.

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