Loop: "You’re dead! What are you doing here?"
by Fabien Lemercier
- The debut feature by Hungarian director Isti Madarász, which was unveiled in competition at Fantasporto, plunges us into the suspense of a time loop
Like a lot of young European filmmakers who grew up in an age of film that mixes works by great directors and genre films (often American ones), eager to come up with their own personal style which would first and foremost give them easier access to the world market, Hungarian director Isti Madarász chose to propel his debut feature, Loop [+see also:
film profile] (Hurok), into the world of science fiction, more specifically exploring the phenomenon of time loops, which have already given rise to a number of films, like Source Code [+see also:
film profile] by Duncan Jones, Edge of Tomorrow by Doug Liman, Wake Up and Die by Miguel Urrutia, The Infinite Man by Hugh Sullivan, and Plus One by Denis Illiadis, without forgetting the one and only Groundhog Day by Harold Ramis on the comedy front.
The narrative structure of this sub-genre is well-known: a character is trapped in a time bubble which repeats itself endlessly, realises this and tries to break its code to free themselves from it, which generally involves becoming more moral as a person. Loop, which was unveiled this week in competition at the 37th Fantasporto Festival, follows this guiding thread to the letter, adding in another familiar variation, duplicated characters, and placing the whole thing firmly in the thriller genre by setting the story against the backdrop of the international trafficking of growth hormones taken from the pituitary glands of corpses at a hospital.
Written by the director as a sophisticated game of chess, a tangle of combinations, signs and clues skilfully fit together at a fast pace, with the story putting its foot down right from the start: Adam (Dénes Száraz) and Anna (Dorina Martinovics) are supposed to leave that day for Helsinki, smuggling 200 vials of growth hormones across the border on behalf of Dezso (Zsolt Anger), but they plan to take off to give themselves the chance of a better life. Then Anna finds out she’s pregnant and, after a fight with Adam, goes for a check-up at the hospital where Adam’s father (Géza Hegedus D) works. After receiving the vials that are given to him by a threatening Dezso, and refusing to miss his chance, Adam decides to abandon Anna, and records a goodbye video before realising that the tickets for their intended journey have disappeared. He throws himself into looking for Anna, finding her in the street, completely distraught ("I saw you die") and holding a video cassette which, she claims, shows Adam’s murder by Deszo. Adam refuses to listen, and Anna is then run over by Deszo’s car, which suddenly appears out of nowhere. Disowning her a second time to witnesses of the incident ("I’ve never seen her before in my life"), Adam flees and goes to see his father at the hospital to borrow his car so he can leave town. But when he breaks down nearby the scene of the accident, he picks the video cassette that Anna was trying to give him up off the ground and, when he gets home, watches it only to see himself be murdered by Dezso. Entering a time loop, Adam ends up re-living this chain of events over and over again, at first denying his love for Anna once again before dividing himself in two, realising just how important Anna is to him, and trying to stop her from dying, avoiding getting killed himself, and escaping from Dezso once and for all.
Very rhythmic, Loop doesn’t really linger on the psychological aspects of the characters and the nuances of interpretation, but works quickly to build a subtle web of all the variations on the same sequence of events repeated in the time loop. A playful concept which is very cleverly pulled off by the screenplay and the editing (by Zoltán Kovács), all wrapped up in some beautiful direction, which notably profited from the talents of director of photography András Nagy.
Produced by Café Film, Loop received support from the Hungarian Film Fund, which is handling international sales.
(Translated from French)