Review: Comrade Draculich
- Vampire, secret services and nomenklatura in 1970s communist Hungary: playing at CinEast and Sitges, the second feature from Márk Bodzsár turns out to be a masterful and very diverting film
"When I was little, I thought I would live forever. In kindergarten, I learned that only vampires couldn’t die. Then I learned that only communist ideology was eternal." When a local hero from the Party, who had gone in exile in Cuba to take part in the revolution alongside Castro and Che Guevara, returns to Budapest for the first time in 20 years, everybody notices him, especially since he is the guest of honour of the “Give your blood for Vietnam” operation organised by the American branch of the Red Cross. But the man who emerges is a kind of Dorian Gray, who in two decades hasn’t gained a wrinkle. At the same time, Moscow is pushing on Hungarian leader János Kádár to discover no less than the secret to eternal life as soon as possible ("you have two weeks to find this for me, or you will be spending Christmas at the gulag") in order to lengthen the lifespan of Soviet leader Leonid Brejnev.
This is the complex mission given to Mária Magyar (Lili Walters), the beautiful detective and lead character in the enjoyable film Comrade Draculich [+see also:
interview: Márk Bodzsár
film profile] by Márk Bodzsár, the second feature from the director revealed with Heavenly Shift [+see also:
film profile] [+see also:
film profile] (2013). The film will open the 13th CinEast (Central and Eastern European Film Festival), which will unfold in Luxembourg from 8 to 25 October and feature a Focus on Hungary in its programme, and will also be playing in competition at the 53rd Sitges Fantastic Film Festival (8 - 18 October).
The code name for the target? Crimson. At first only tasked with discovering whether the mythical comrade Fábián (Zsolt Nagy) is a friend or an enemy of the regime, Mária and her partner (at work and in bed) Laszlo Kun (Ervin Nagy), renamed Birdy et Falcon for the occasion, therefore place under close surveillance (with the help of their colleagues King Cobra, Water Snake, Athos, Porthos and Aramis) a seductive vampire who seems very rock’n’roll at the wheel of his red Ford Mustang. But troubling clues, as well as the role given to Mária ("get closer to the target, both physically and mentally" and "make him emotionally dependent") soon create trouble for the duo, torn by professionalism, jalousy, and a desire for freedom…
Making its humoristic inspirations very clear (in particular with references to Chaplin and Keaton), Márk Bodzsár blends together different dimensions with great fluidity: a satirical tableau of the communist regimentation of the time, burlesque adventures in spying, touches of the classic vampire film genre (heightened senses, a thirst for blood, crucifixes, garlic cloves, etc.), a love triangle (bringing together multiple pairs of people, Mária and Laszlo’s curious neighbours, the head of secret services and his secretary with a talent for corrupting priests) and a zest of women’s liberation. Unfolding with an impeccable formal quality (in particular when it comes to the remarkable reconstitution from set designer Márton Ágh, but also in the cinematography from Dániel Reich and the music by Gábor Keresztes), Comrade Draculich offers a series of uplifting roles which the entirety of the cast takes on with a playful appetite that will easily affect the viewer.
(Translated from French)
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