mon 15/07/2024

Blu-ray: Merry-Go-Round (Körhinta) | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Merry-Go-Round (Körhinta)

Blu-ray: Merry-Go-Round (Körhinta)

Iconic, multi-layered Hungarian love story returns

Mari Törőcsik and Imre Soós

There’s a lot to unpick in Zoltán Fabri’s 1956 film Merry-Go-Round (Körhinta). Take leading man Imre Soós’s disarming resemblance to a young Peter O’Toole, and a central love story which plays out like a Hungarian take on Romeo and Juliet with some post-war agrarian politics thrown in for good measure.

Fábri keeps his narrative and thematic plates spinning brilliantly: Soós’s charismatic co-operative farmer Máté falls for Mari (a luminous Mari Törőcsik in her debut film appearance), whose father István is a stubborn private smallholder looking to expand his empire. Fábri captures a society on the cusp of radical change; the jokey circus banner displaying the words “Down with bourgeois formalism!” in the opening minutes is set against a portrayal of rural life which frequently looks more 1855 than 1955.

We first meet Máté and Mari at a village fair, with extraordinary sequences showing them riding swing boats and the titular merry-go-round. Both are technically brilliant, cinematographer Barnabás Hegyi refusing to shoot the carousel scene in a studio, instead operating his heavy camera whilst perched on a platform attached with chains to the ride (Second Run’s booklet contains a photograph showing Hegyi at work). The results are exhilarating and a little terrifying, a potent visual metaphor for the pair’s love. Alas, István plots to marry off Mari to Ádám Szirtes’s yobbish Farkas Sándor for financial gain. She seems powerless to refuse, Törőcsik’s facial expressions conveying a blend of innocence and heartbreak. The moment when she and Máté finally embrace and kiss is enchanting, the couple declaring their love in a damp, muddy field.

Merry-Go-RoundAn extended scene at a wedding party suggests that Fabri knew his westerns, the men smoking and downing shots in a side room while the dancing kicks off. Mari can’t conceal her loathing for Farkas, showing signs of life only when Máté asks her to be his partner. Hegyi’s camerawork is again superb, the couple spinning as if possessed, the sweat dripping off their faces while an enraged and impotent Farkas looks on. The concluding scenes pack a punch, Béla Barsi’s István struggling to maintain his dignity whilst consumed by rage, but what threatens to be a bloody denouement is avoided.

Presentation and packaging are up to this label’s high standards. John Cunningham’s extended booklet essay makes for fascinating reading, especially when discussing Merry-Go-Round’s highly successful (if award-free) showing at the 1956 Cannes Festival. Truffaut and Cocteau were fans, as was Lindsay Anderson. Extras include director István Szabó discussing Fabri’s career, and an enchanting selection of behind-the-scenes footage. Second Run’s HD transfer looks and sounds marvellous, a further bonus short outlining the film’s painstaking restoration.

The couple spin as if possessed, the sweat dripping off their faces


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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