Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Hukkle



Hungary 2002 : Gyorgy PALFI : 75-77 mins

No less an eminence than Paul Thomas Anderson is said to be a big fan of Hukkle, and it isn’t hard to see why. This is a bold debut from the 27-year-old Palfi experimental but accessible, if not entirely intelligible on first viewing. Theres no dialogue as such in the film, which thus joins the coyly dialogue-light likes of La Libertad and Soft For Digging in a current mini-genre of deliberately quiet projects Iosselianis Monday Morning is relatively verbose variant.

Words are spoken in Hukkle, but they remain indistinct, and the only clear instance of audible human voices comes near the end during a choral song. Palfi instead tells his story using sound effects both natural and man-made. In a small Hungarian village, an old man sits hiccoughing (hukkle! hukkle!) outside his house, watching the world go by. Around him, animals, birds, insects, fish and people go about their business, with as in Malicks The Thin Red Line – no special emphasis on one species above any other. Gradually some elements of plot cohere around what seems to be a homicide, but its hard to be too dogmatic about what were seeing and hearing.

Whatever the specifics of the story may be, there’s enormous pleasure to be had from the refreshingly

non-anthropo-centric mechanics of its telling: cinematographer Gergely Poharnok captures crystal-clear images of the natural world while Tamas Zanyis sound creates a fully-fledged audioscape. And Palfi, who has a fine eye for the composition of shots, keeps things moving at anything but a snails pace most of the scenes are short, with many visual jokes involving the creatures, who emerge as unpredictable minor characters with which we get up close and very personal.

He doesn’t hold back on the more brutal aspects of nature, or mans treatment of his fellow beings, and its very hard to know what to make of the end-title disclaimer that Contrary to appearances, animals in this film were not harmed when we’ve clearly seen terminal injuries inflicted on ants, a mole, worms, bees and fish. Half wildlife documentary and half murder mystery, Hukkle represents an unlikely but successful cross-pollination of genres, with some flashes of genuinely freakish inspiration: including, towards the end, a literally out-of-the-blue special-effects event that must ranks among cinemas most gloriously unexpected cases of deus ex machina.

7th March 2003
(seen on video, 1st February, De Doelen videotheque, Rotterdam Rotterdam Film Festival)

For all the reviews from the Rotterdam Film Festival click here.

by Neil Young