Ahorn | Wednesday February 21st, 2018
Sin, catharsis and rebirth in today’s realeyz Berlinale Blog. Film critic and filmmaker Andrew Horn watched Árpád Bogdán’s Genezis at the Berlinale Panorama:
The story of Árpád Bogdán’s film Genezis (Genesis) was inspired by a series of real life incidents of right wing violence against Roma communities in Hungary that took place in 2008 and 2009. The core narrative deals with a firebombing of a Roma settlement in a rural area in an unspecified part of Hungary. The time is clearly the present, and yet the portrayal of the people and the place seems to be somehow timeless, possibly suggesting the that the early days of post Communist decay have not quite gone away.
But rather than telling a linear story, the movie is divided into three individual episodes, each following a different character and each having to do with an aspect of a racially motivated crime: the victims, the perpetrators and the justice system.
Each episode is named for it’s central character. The first is Ricsi, a nine year old Roma boy whose life is progressively stripped away from him. His father has been unfairly sentenced for a minor crime. His dog gets rabies and has to be shot, and he is forced to abandon his mother when his house is firebombed by a local neo-Nazi group.
The second is Virag, an athletic teenage girl who is a member of an archery club in school. She is trying to deal with a conflicted family life, and a boy friend who seems to care for her but at the same time is troubled and pre-occupied with some kind of secret. When she finds out she is pregnant, she has to question whether she wants to bring a baby into the world.
The third is Hanna, a defense attorney who is forced to defend a neo-Nazi, whose guilt may not be as clear as it seems. However the case has a political back story and the pressure is coming down from above. This is probably not the first time she was in this kind of situation, and she is clearly carrying the weight of personal guilt.
The film doesn’t try to tell a complete story, instead uses the three episodes to sketch in the narrative that we only experience through it’s effects on each of the three characters. Each story is self contained with some overlap in time and occasional cross-over appearances from one or another character.
In the abstract the whole thing might seem pretty depressing, but a coolly unhistrionic focus on the individual characters gives it all a human face that brings us into the arc of each person’s struggle. In the same way, the dreary interiors and the moody forest landscapes eventually create their own kind of noir-ish tone that works as a dramatic element.
The director calls this a film “a depiction of sin, catharsis and rebirth” after thinking about it, I see how that works. But I did have to think about it. The construction – or maybe deconstruction – of the narrative is one of the strengths of the movie but it’s indirectness also left me wondering at the end if I truly understood everything that was going on. But on the other hand, as a friend of mine once said, “being able to explain everything is overrated.”