The Notebook | Chicago Reader

The Notebook

Thoroughly unpleasant and at the same time completely unedifying, this 2013 Hungarian drama by János Szász follows the adventures of young twin brothers who are abandoned by their parents in the final days of World War II in Europe. Parked with their fat, hateful, alcoholic grandmother and left to their own devices in a dank village near the Russian front, the boys witness all manner of moral depravity, put themselves through a masochistic survival regimen, and entertain themselves with various destructive high jinks. (At one point they load a potbelly stove with explosives, and the woman who lights it the next day gets her face blown off.) Critic Slavoj Žižek has praised the source novel by Ágota Kristóf, calling its young protagonists an example of "ethical naivety at its purest." That may be, but rendered onscreen, the story plays more like a cross between The Painted Bird and the "Our Gang" comedies. In Hungarian with subtitles.

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