An excerpt from the booklet essay by Jonathan Owen

Born in Budapest in 1955, director Ildikó Enyedi was quick to manifest the iconoclasm and independence of mind evident in My 20th Century. At university, she ‘quit the study of philosophy because she thought it was taught badly’ and later almost dropped out of Budapest’s film academy ‘because she felt that some of those in power were lazy thinkers’. Her apprenticeship as a filmmaker further reflects these qualities. Enyedi belonged to the Indigo group of the 1970s and ‘80s, a collectivist experimental art community on the fringes of legality, and in 1979 she started working at the Béla Balázs Studio, famed as a ‘site of avant-garde formal experimentation’ that housed talents like Gábor Bódy and Béla Tarr. Bódy in particular, as the originator of a ‘postmodernist’ and ‘postmodernist’ mode in Hungarian cinema, has been identified as an influence on Enyedi’s work . Connections could certainly be found, say, with Bódy’s US Civil War-set American Torso (Amerikai anzix, 1975), another counter-historical vision whose formalist play with the techniques of early cinema is resumed more appealingly in My 20th Century.

Following several shorts, My 20th Century appeared in 1988, as Hungary’s Communist system was collapsing – an appropriate time, then, for a film that reflects back on the century and the promises of rationality and positive transformation it had ushered in. Enyedi’s feature debut was acclaimed internationally, winning the Camera d’Or at Cannes, and launched a career that, while not prolific in feature output, has seen Enyedi pursue her trademark preoccupations. The 1994 Magic Hunter (Büvös vadász/Freischütz), a Swiss-French-Hungarian coproduction that features the familiar (if incongruous) faces of Gary Kemp and Sadie Frost, is in part an update of the Faust-like German legend of the ‘Freischütz’ and hinges on themes of fate, chance and supernatural intervention. A recognisably ‘Enyedian’ touch for viewers of My 20th Century is a scene in which a painting of the Virgin Mary comes to life to protect a hunted rabbit. The modest love story of Tamás and Juli (Tamás és Juli, 1997) was produced for the French ‘2000 vu par’ series dealing with the upcoming turn of the millennium and thus nicely complements the turn-of-the-century setting of Enyedi’s first film. The meditative, enigmatic Simon the Magician (Simon mágus, 1999) turns the dissident Biblical sorcerer into a Hungarian mystic invited by the Paris police to solve a murder. This film touchingly dramatises the complexities of a modern globalised Europe, not least in its depiction of non-French-speaking Simon’s courtship of a young Parisian woman.

Sshe has recently completed her fifth feature, On Body and Soul (A teströl és a lélekröl, 2017), a widely acclaimed comeback that has just earned Enyedi the Golden Bear at Berlin. In her acceptance speech Enyedi remarked that this film was approachable only to those ‘with a generous heart’. The sentiment is sure to sound fitting to anyone who has seen My 20th Century, with its intense and exceptional sympathy for all living creatures.


Jonathan Owen's complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the release.

Disc Info

Hungary, 1988
Length / Feature
(Blu-ray/24fps): 103 minutes
(DVD/25fps): 99 minutes
Length / Special feature:
27 minutes
Blu-Ray: 1.0 Dual Mono LPCM (48k/16-bit)
DVD: 1.0 Dolby Dual Mono
Black and white
Original aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Language: Hungarian, German

Blu-ray: BD25 / 1080 / 24fps / Region ABC
DVD: PAL / DVD9 / Region 0

Blu-Ray: £19.99
DVD: £12.99
Release Date: 20 March 2017


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