Son of Saul director László Nemes deftly conjures the death throes of the Austro-Hungarian empire in an atmospheric mystery drama.
It is 1913, nearing the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and on the eve of the First World War. Írisz Leiter (a haunting Juli Jakab) is a hat maker who returns to Budapest years after being fostered under mysterious circumstances.
Her parents had been respected milliners, owners of a shop bearing their name and who served both the wealthy and aristocracy. A whispered secret about why they’re no longer there casts a sinister pall over the shop. As the plot becomes less linear, the film’s dark beauty intensifies, Mátyás Erdély’s photography seems to contain distilled essence of European arthouse cinema, while an increasingly disquieting and anxious score suggests a darkness of the soul.
Favouring poetry over the literal, Nemes’ gives us a fugue-like meditation on the end of an empire; the brilliantly wilful Írisz our witness to the flickering innocence of a Europe about to be plunged into hell.
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