Documentarist fiction became a full-fledged and significant trend in the seventies under the auspices of the Budapest School. The emergence of the style of documentarist fiction may be linked directly to the idea of social commitment, while the presence of this form reflects the status of social commitment. The idea of documentarist fiction can be applied fruitfully to the period between 1948 and 1989, the privatization of film industry. At the same time contemporary phenomena attest to the its influence until today: whenever the question of social commitment is raised, films go back to the tradition and tools of documentarist fiction. Using contemporary works as a starting point, primarily Bence Fliegauf’s Csak a szél [Just the Wind], the essay offers an overview of the diverse periods of documentarist fiction in Hungary.
Patterns of narrative, which were used in the films of the Budapest School appeared at the turn of the sixties and seventies with the aim to create an inspiring tension between performance, “embodiment” and social modeling. The article uses two opposing examples, a feature film by Lívia Gyarmathy, and a short film by Gyula Gazdag. While the first example models a new relationship between narration and state of being, the second is an experiment in creating a grotesque connection between “event” and “social explanation”, using the tools of cinema verité and cinema direct. As a next step, the paper examines two films of the Budapest School, Gyula Gazdag’s, A válogatás [Selection] and his Harcmodor [Battle Style], both of which exemplify the constructivist practice of narration, and they both scrutinize the relationship between society and presentation, society and spectacle. Finally, Gyula Gazdag’s Bástyasétány 74 [Singing on the treadmill] is analysed as a film that distances itself from the Budapest School by the partial modification of its basic principles. It retains the social sensitivity, but realizes it through the analysis of medial and aesthetic forms.
When describing Béla Tarr’s unique treatment of time in his films, Jacques Rancière uses the term “time after”, and reveals its ties with realism. Since the term “time after” cannot be readily contextualized in the discourse on film history, the essay examines the ways it may be approached regarding its relations to the films of the Budapest School. The argument first gives a brief description of the Budapest School as an umbrella term, after which it takes a look at the functions of time in Hungarian documentarist fiction and narrative documentaries of the seventies. These functions are related to the concept of “time after”, in order to reveal the poetic elements within the term, as well as its roots in film history.
In two related studies, the author takes a look at Pál Schiffer’s oeuvre, specifically his films made in the seventies, from a cultural perspective. The analysis relies on Foucault’s theoretical framework as it is discussed in Michael Renov’s Toward a poetics of documentary, arguing for the significance of social dynamics in understanding cultural/aesthetic practices. Applying this perspective to images of Gypsies in Hungary proves to be difficult due to the lack of sources on the civil rights movement of the Roma. Sources available may be impeccable from a professional point of view, still, they are written from the majority’s perspective. The first study, focusing on Cséplő Gyuri, maps out the discursive spaces defining the representatin of the Roma. The main problems discussed are the relationship between social research and filmmaking, and diverse attempts to represent reality in a social and cultural environment which is unique from the point of view of initially offering ostensible solutions.
Due to its high complexity and the lack of basic sources, the “Roma question” is difficult to map out. Still, through the examination of forced historical and ideological trajectories and a new interpretation of Schiffer’s films we may get closer to understanding the image of the Roma as it is included in the cinematic trends of the period. Before shooting Gyuri Cséplő, Pál Schiffer made documentaries on commuting, the school system and housing, and his work ran parallel to (and later based on) social research on the same topics at the time. The author stresses the differences in methods, since these differences are helpful in explaining the specificities of documentarist fiction. Formal analysis, however, remains embedded in the discursive practices elaborated in the previous study, since policies regarding the Roma and the poor, as well as their representation play a decisive role in shaping the pictorial representation of reality. The research relies on sources that have not been acknowledged so far (such as Pál Schiffer’s legacy in the Open Society Archive), which reveal not only the difficulties in making the film, but also the sociological perspective of the authors. The second part of the study discusses the film’s shooting, and the conclusion draws a parallel between the film analysed and a classic of film history as well as its afterlife, Jean Rouch’s Moi, un noir (I, a Negro, 1958).
The first part of the article analyses the identity crisis and other related phenomena of the late Kádár-regime (double social consciousness, rise of the socialist middle class, second society) in the light of contemporary Hungarian cinema. Following a discussion of the contradictions characterizing the socialist version of reality, the paper focuses on power discourses and marginalization strategies. The essay develops an approach to the analysis of contemporary documentaries based on Foucault’s understanding of power. The second part of the argument offers a foucauldian rereading of the realistic method of film sociology based on four examples, Gyula Gulyás and János Gulyás’s Ne sápadj! [Don’t give up](1983) and Törvénysértés nélkül [Without legal offence] (1988), András Mész’s Bebukottak [Failed] (1985) and György Dobray’s K1 and K2 (1988-1990), focusing on the way the films themselves address the question of marginalizing discourses and power mechanisms, the way they depict the process through which power is formed at the peripheries of society, as well as the tools of resistance to these marginalizing mechanisms.
Documentarist feature films have a special place within the theoretical discourse on documentaries. Films of the Budapest School created precisely this unique mixture of the documentarist and feature traditions. This genre can be fruitfully examined within the theoretical frame related to documentaries, in order to help us understand the characteristics of the works within the Budapest School, such as characters, the relation between documents and editing, social functions as well as the points of connection between documentarizing and artistic aims.
The argument aims at scrutinizing the realist perspective in Mike Leigh’s films. First, the most important elements of British realist films are overviewed, in order to create a background for examining the way its tendencies survived and are varied in the films of Leigh and Ken Loach, another author dedicated to realist representation. A detailed picture is provided on the background of Leigh’s characteristic realism, with a special focus on the modes of representing faces. The argument points out the combination of realist and theatrical traditions as decisive in Leigh’s style. Leigh is regarded as an outstanding artist of realist cinema, who bases his films on a detailed examination of the everyday and the human being, and is inspired by the everyday in conveying stories of universal significance.