Sunday, July 25, 2010
Family Nest (1979)****
Like the Kovacs apartment, Family Nest bursts at the seams with manipulation, vengeance and the dark edges of generational conflict. While its depictions of everyday life are simple to the point of milky blandness, the characterizations are so effective and believable we sense every churning layer of strife. Eventually our suspicions are confirmed as revelations about the true nature of this family come fast and furious in the final act. There are times when you want to reach through the screen and throttle Gabor Kun, and you’ll want to offer your spare room to Iren and daughter Kristi. But there are no spare rooms in the Budapest of 1977, as the totalitarian regime has learned that doling out living space is a wonderful means of controlling a weary populace.
The film makes clear that oppression can be used as a wedge to drive families apart, and the ensuing hopelessness magnifies small issues into the raging and unsolvable. There is no escape from Iren’s toxic father-in-law, and her attempts to build a life apart from his influence brand her as anti-social and rebellious; two character traits no communist society will endure.
It would be a dozen years before the people of Hungary would taste the sweetness of freedom, but here Bela Tarr bravely shows us the slow boil of revolution and the dire reality of life under an unsustainable system. By cleverly disguising it as a small story of familial strife, Tarr managed to create a grimy and powerful metaphor of the human spirit, and gave a poignant yet resilient face to the huddled masses.
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