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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Film review: Katalin Varga

Peter Strickland / Romania

The idea for this film began many years ago when director Peter Strickland and a friend went into the Carpathian Mountains, Romania. This area of Transavia is magical but eerie and these combined qualities set Strickland into motion. Katalin (Hilda Peter) lives for eleven years with a secret and makes the mistake of telling someone in her small village. Before she knows it, she and her son Antal Borland (Tibor Palffy) are banished by the father who sets her off in a slow-moving horse and cart over the horizon. She seeks justice for the crime that has ruined her life. Revenge becomes the only solution that can calm her soul. Strickland’s theme of revenge with a fatal and shocking twist managed to mortify and even offend the audience.

 At the press conference several journalists kept insisting that there was no justice for this rape crime. Strickland explained that he could not show Katalin any mercy because in reality she was also guilty, but of a different crime: murder. In one of strongest scenes Katalin describes to the wife and the rapist what happened to her eleven years ago. All three are in a boat and the camera is moving from face to face whilst the audience hears this intensely eerie sound of nature behind them. The director wanted to portray a strong emotional reality, which is often absent from this genre. Everyone is caught in this web of crime and he wanted to dispel this notation of bad guy to good guy story. The fallen heroine is also flawed by being unaware of the wider consequences for her quest for justice. Producers Tudor and Oana Giurgui were excited that a film was being made in Romania and that actors and actresses from the two ethnic groups, which are often in conflict, worked together. This film won the Silver Bear for an outstanding artistic contribution, which must be attributed to the sound track. The music and sounds were intense and original and at the same time captured the feeling of this remote environment.


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