Review: Explanation for Everything
- VENICE 2023: Gábor Reisz delivers a brilliant, fascinating and intelligent work about modern-day Hungary, telling a composite story about youth, education, the media and politics
"The ideal situation would be for politics to stay out of education, but clearly that’s impossible". In Explanation for Everything [+see also:
interview: Gábor Reisz
film profile], unveiled in the 80th Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti line-up, the considerable potential of Hungarian director Gábor Reisz, which could already been seen in his two first feature films (For Some Inexplicable Reason [+see also:
film profile] and Bad Poems [+see also:
film profile]), reaches a whole new level of indisputable maturity. Very few current young filmmakers can boast delivering such an accurate, precise and nuanced story progressing over eight days and told from three (or even four) different viewpoints, without ever losing any depth in characterisation or compromising the story’s fluidity, all the while sketching out a captivating portrait of modern-day Hungary, which sidesteps the coarsest traps of Manicheism whilst openly exposing societal divides.
"Why are you wearing a nationalist badge?", "From what I understand, it was the nationalist badge which caused him to fail?". Only two days separate these two questions. The first was asked on a Tuesday, following an examination set by history teacher Jakab (András Rusznák) for Abel (Gáspár Adonyi-Walsh) who has just miserably failed the oral exam for his Baccalauréat. The second was put by ambitious journalist Erika (Rebeka Hatházi) to the headteacher of the high school on the Thursday. The main protagonists had been introduced to us on the Monday: Àbel, the teenager in love with Janka (Lilla Kizlinger) who in turn has a (non-requited) crush on her teacher Jakab, who is himself trying (to the detriment of his family life) to make a documentary about the Budapest Uprising in 1956, and Abel’s parents who are obsessed with his academic success, especially his father, patriotic György (István Znamenák). Add an ounce of a lie to the mix, a spicy pinch of political bipolarisation ("freedom, that’s your problem! – We always need to hate someone here: migrants, gays, teachers, Orban and his friends") and a healthy dose of media hype, and it all results in a very busy week for György, Jakab, and Àbel in particular as the young detonator of an explosive situation…
Endowed with a keen sense of observation, which feeds into this polyphonic story composed of tiny details and perfectly natural dialogue, Gábor Reisz (who penned the film’s brilliant screenplay with Éva Schulze) offers up a complex puzzle of remarkable simplicity, opening up a vast field for thought on modern-day Hungarian society, but also more broadly on education and 21st century youth. It’s a very well-acted portrait which the filmmaker is intelligent enough to present the many facets of, suggesting that beyond political (op)positions, it’s not too easy to distinguish between truths and lies. Because it all starts inside of each of us and, for choirs to sing in harmony, we need to be in tune with ourselves and others.
(Translated from French)
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