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BERLINALE 2014 Panorama Special

Land of Storms: Bucolic love fights intolerance

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- A promising and fascinating LGBT-related directorial debut by Hungary’s Adam Csaszi, discovered at Berlinale’s Panorama.

Land of Storms: Bucolic love fights intolerance

Whereas a decade ago the competition for the Teddy Award sometimes included stories only tangentially connected to LGBT realities, this is not the case anymore. Strong films from five continents are in the running for the edition’s award, and Adam Csaszi’s Land of Storms [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Adam Csaszi
festival scope
film profile
]
may become one of the jury’s favourites. The story of Szabi, a Hungarian footballer who comes back to his grandparents’ village after an unsuccessful career in Germany, compellingly explores self-discovery and intolerance.

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It's never too early to reconsider one's path in life, and Szabi (Andras Suto) realises this while playing football for a German team. Something happens and the young man returns to Hungary, to his grandparents’ now deserted farm. One night, Szabi hears someone trying to steal his old bike, and that is how he meets Aron (Adam Varga), a young man from the village. In Ivan Szabo and Csaszi’s screenplay, a punch in the head is followed by a spontaneous friendship, and Aron will soon start helping Szabi to repair the derelict house. The arrival of Bernard (Sebastian Urzendowsky), a former colleague in Szabi’s football team, complicates things even more…

Even though dozens of LGBT movies tackle the idea of sexual discovery, Csaszi finds ways to tell a story that is both engrossing and fresh. Suto and Varga have real on-screen chemistry, while Marcell Rev’s camera work takes advantage of the beauty of the surrounding fields and makes some interesting art direction choices, such as a conversation that takes place in a solitary paddle boat shaped like a swan, a very visually interesting but over-the-top decision, as the audience is always led to believe that this complicated love story unfolds in a village in the middle of nowhere.

Csaszi makes his protagonists perform an interesting and beautiful choreography, whenever they swim, drink from the same bottle, hammer nails into the farm’s roof or simply put a door on its hinges. The latter becomes a moment of great beauty as they swirl around to find the best position, smiling at each other through the glass. Another example of the director’s keen eye for visually striking shots is seen when two bodies become intertwined on cracked, arid mud, lit up by Szabi’s old bike.

Although they sometimes deliver their lines too flatly, the main actors are convincing and sincere, especially when rumours in the village may denounce them as the local pariahs. A story of love, Land of Storms is also a tale of intolerance, and the screenplay’s decision for the ending may even prove controversial for some of the audience. It seems that Szabo and Csaszi wanted to avoid any accusations of predictability being levelled at their story, choosing an immaturely conceived and implausible destiny for their protagonists. Fortunately, it doesn’t ruin what is, overall, an engaging piece of cinema.

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