Torzók (original title)
1h 40min | Drama | 25 October 2001 (Hungary)
Áron is a happy child in his family. But at some point things take a different turn, and his mother starts to lose her health rapidly. As this happens, the man in charge decides what’s best for Áron without consulting the young boy’s opinion, and the boy finds himself thrown out of his warm home into an orphanage in the woods. He’s utterly displeased by what’s happening, without knowing he has yet to face much worse. After a hard time getting over the harrassment of his classmates and being accepted as one of them, another obstacle on the way to his peace of mind faces him: His obnoxious teachers. He has no intention of being bad, but it’s beyond his ability to blend into the revolting place he’s in. The nasty treatment of the teaching crew gets the better of him, and he’s not all that calm and passive anymore. But that leads into unpleasant events which Áron himself wouldn’t want.
‘Torzók’ (‘Abandoned’) is a brilliant Hungarian film written and directed by Árpád Sopsits that takes us back to Hungary of 1960 when the oppressive Communist rule altered the lives of everyone, especially children. The quality of the film is absolutely first rate from story to acting to filming to scoring. It may be a tough film to absorb and certainly not for the easily offended, but it is a perfectly honed gem of a film that deserves wide audience exposure.
Áron (Tamás Mészáros) is a young lad whose life seems warm at first until suddenly a disease of vision impairment attacks his mother and his parents divorce: the mother is somewhere in a hospital and the father (Sándor Gáspár) beats the boy and eventually turns him over to a rigid orphanage for boys run by cruel taskmasters. Áron undergoes initiation tactics by his fellow orphans but despite the beatings he is strong enough to survive. He is befriended when he has his nightmares about his mother’s blindness by his friend Atilla (Szabolcs Csizmadia) and the two bond emotionally and physically. In this bleak atmosphere a little light comes from the beautiful young housekeeper Anya (Krisztina Somogyi) but even her contributions are compromised by the cruelty of the staff. There is one ‘teacher’ in the orphanage school, Nyitrai (László Gálffi) who has been reduced to his position as an ‘imprisoned one’ by the government and his sadness is offset by his playing his cello and studying his beloved astronomy. Nyitrai offers Áron solace and introduces his ‘fellow traveler’ to the glory of the stars, giving Áron a map of the heavens that Áron cherishes – his window to a world beyond the dark confines of his prison-like orphanage. He gradually wins over his fellow orphans and when Nyitrai, in the pit of depression for his life situation and the cruelty of the orphanage and the government, hangs himself. This horrid incident drives Áron to organize an escape from the orphanage, an event that is ultimately fractured with a death for which Áron feels responsible. And the end of the film fades into the many possibilities that event could trigger.
The atmosphere created by the stunning cinematography by Péter Szatmári defines the darkness that represents the orphanage well but also suggests the darkness in Hungary of that period. The musical score by Péter Fejcsik, Tamás Görgényi, Ferenc Toma, and Balázs Winkler is some of the most beautiful composed for the screen, making tremendously effective use of the cello and lower strings. In all, this is a brilliant piece of film-making, acted with depth in every role, and unveiling a portion of history and tragedy too often pushed to the background of our books. Highly Recommended.
Director: Árpád Sopsits
Writer: Árpád Sopsits
Stars: Tamás Mészáros, Szabolcs Csizmadia, Attila Zsilák