April 29, 2004

Cornell Cinema

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A unique brand of filmmaking is employed in Hukkle, one that ignores popular trends in favor of creative experimentation. This film isn’t so much a linear story as it is a glimpse of the world through the eyes of an unseen character. A series of images strung together without formal narration, Hukkle exudes both mystery and wonder.

The film starts off innocently enough. An old Hungarian man pours himself a canister of milk and slowly makes his way to a bench on the side of the road. The man hiccups loudly along the way and these hiccups are, in fact, the reason for the film’s enigmatic title. What follows is a continuous montage of a variety of scenes, from the vibrating wing of a flying bee to the suspended floating of a fisherman’s hook. The old man, however, remains a source of consistency throughout the film as the compilations of scenes are only interrupted by a flashback to his constant presence on the bench.

Director Gyorgi Palfi paints a vivid picture of pastoral life in Hukkle because he makes an intricate study of a rural Hungarian village through different types of camera angles and subject matters. From the composition of bricks with which each house is built to the spices and cooking techniques from which a specific ethnic cuisine emerges, Palfi’s movie plays like the unguided exploration of a foreign culture.

Extreme close-ups paired with off-center wide shots mimic the real vision of a human being. Only certain things catch our eye, but when they do, we always have trouble looking away. Other times, we are given only fleeting glimpses of reality as we hurry through life in a rush. Another variant factor in Hukkle is the center of focus in different scenes. Actions in scenes are not always framed to be in the center of the screen, sometimes only visible on the left or right side, mimicking to peripheral vision in real life. The theme of cruelty and violence is also explored in Hukkle, a film not without its own sense of morbidity. Among the various scenes of daily life involving the village are those that bespeak of the harsh hand of nature and survival. Animals are eaten or crushed, medical patients are examined, and still life goes on. The intensity of the images eventually culminates in the discovery of a dead body, but Hukkle is far from being a conventional murder mystery. For one thing, the murder is not the main subject of the film and solving it does not seem to be the director’s main prerogative. Palfi handles his camera with care and grace, lingering with romantic attentiveness on specific scenes. Even the smallest aspects of nature and life are examined, the movement of ants across the earth or the sizzling of diced onions in a black pan. What results is a distinctively honest picture of reality in the village where Hukkle takes place. This is a vision of everyday life in an actual place and the slightly ominous mood only heightens this rare glimpse.

Without any scripted dialogue or soundtrack, Hukkle is almost more of a documentary than a feature film. Instead of deliberately spoken words or carefully chosen music to parallel desired moods, Hukkle is accompanied purely by the natural noises of each filmed scene. Sound comes from the chirping of insects or the trickling of water in a stream. Characters within the film do speak, but their dialogues function solely as contributions to the rest of the movie’s background noise.

A different type of movie, Hukkle was filmed artistically and with an eye for the visually powerful aspects of life. Palfi employs images as his chief actors and does not dilute his vision with contrived storylines or authoritative narration. The resulting product is both fresh and captivating, a brilliant tapestry of light and movement.

Archived article by Tracy Zhang