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ZAGREBDOX 2024

Review: Cabin Pressure

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- Eszter Nagy and Sára Czira’s directorial debut is a direct, intimate and earnest documentary on navigating co-parenting arrangements in the modern world

Review: Cabin Pressure

The definition of a family used to be quite simple and definitive: a mother and a father, who are married to each other, plus their children. Times were simpler, too, so there were fewer options on the table regarding lifestyle and the order of priorities for each individual. With more freedom of choice and individuality, there are more decisions that can be made in order to reconcile one’s wishes and reality, but it also means that certain compromises should be made.

Such a situation is portrayed in Eszter Nagy and Sára Czira’s directorial debut, Cabin Pressure, which has just premiered in the regional competition of ZagrebDox. With the unusual situation at its core and the earnest approach of the filmmakers, it could pique the interest of other festivals, especially documentary ones specialised in family and human rights topics, before it lands in its natural habitat of television.

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Our protagonist is Heni, a thirty-something artist from Hungary who lives and works in Barcelona. She is quite accomplished on a professional level, but her ultimate wish is to start a family, which might be tricky given that she is focused on her career and her previous relationships did not live up to her standards. She feels she does not have enough time to try to cultivate a new relationship that could potentially bless her with a child before she turns 40. Luckily for her, contemporary medicine can offer her the services of in-vitro fertilisation, while today’s internet-based lifestyle provides an array of co-parenting schemes.

For such an endeavour, she needs a partner, and she meets him through her friends. He is a Russian gay man one generation older than her, named Andrey, who also resides in Barcelona. Although their agreement seems pretty straight-forward and devoid of any messy emotions, they still have to sail some uncharted waters, similar to those that “regular” couples have to navigate. Could their arrangement work once their son Leo is born?

Cabin Pressure is primarily the project of Eszter Nagy, and it serves as a vessel for her to put her variety of academic backgrounds (psychology, film theory and interdisciplinary arts) to good use. On the other hand, Sára Czira is a seasoned assistant director with projects such as Györgyi Pálfi’s Taxidermia [+see also:
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and Benedek Filegauf’s Just the Wind [+see also:
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interview: Bence Fliegauf
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]
under her belt, so her input is more than helpful here. However, it is obvious that the documentary is a first-time directorial effort for both of them, in which they have opted for a combination of a direct, intimate approach and attempts at stylistic flourishes, searching for the perfect balance in the process.

Some things work better than others. For instance, the clear sense of difference between the various locations – such as the urban, lively Barcelona, a Hungarian village where time seems to have stood still since World War II, and the cold, formal Moscow – is a joy to behold thanks to Maud-Sophie Andrieux’s assistance in the cinematography department. The editing by Anna Vaghy is also a small, unpretentious master class in adding dynamism while placing the material in a sensible order. The montage sequences, sometimes laced with Áron Filkey’s animated interventions, are an especially nice touch. On the other hand, the overuse of electronic music of different genres feels a bit over the top, while the minimal sound design makes the recorded sound seem too raw and dirty at some points. In the end, Cabin Pressure might not be perfect, but it is an interesting and honest documentary effort.

Cabin Pressure is a Hungarian production by Good Kids Productions and Kinomoto, in co-production with HBO Max. Feelsales handles the international sales.

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