A short excerpt from the booklet essay by John Cunningham.
Although made some 45 years ago, in the early days of his long and illustrious career, István Szabó's film Father (Apa) remains much admired by both critics and audiences and is a personal favourite of the director. This, in itself, is remarkable, for Szabó is still making films and his output includes such prestigious offerings as the Oscar-winning Mephisto (1980), the epic Sunshine (2000) and Taking Sides (2004), the powerful post-war drama concerning the German music conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. So what makes Father the film it is? To attempt some kind of an answer it is necessary, first, to try and place Szabó's own early life within the context of the history of Central Europe and particularly his native Hungary. Father is a film about a generation – Szabó's own generation that grew up in the aftermath of the Second World War and 'came of age', as it were, in 1956 and the Hungarian Uprising. It is also a film that contains a number of autobiographical elements, although Szabó has always denied that it is an autobiographical film as such.
Szabó's second feature film was released at a time when the French New Wave was in decline and it has less of the overt references to New Wave filmmaking that can be seen in his previous film, The Age of Daydreaming (Álmodozások kora). Father stars the young actor András Bálint who had earlier appeared in the leading role in The Age of Daydreaming and would also occupy this position in Szabó's third feature, Lovefilm (Szerelmesfilm). Director and actor are roughly of the same age and all three films mentioned feature young people in their early/mid twenties, although Father starts off with the protagonist Takó as a young boy (Dániel Erdély). This reinforces the idea that these films - but particularly Father - are the films of a generation. Born around the time of the Second World War this is the generation that took to the streets in 1956 and has had to come to terms with the defeat of the Uprising and settle down, however reluctantly, to work out some kind of modus vivendi with the powers that be. The alternatives were fairly stark – to emigrate or to exist in some kind of oppositional underground. Many characters in Szabó's films discuss leaving Hungary for the West, particularly in the wake of 1956. Some leave but most stay, nor for those who leave is it always a success story – the position of the exile in Szabó's films is always one of profound ambiguity. However, this is not a major theme of the film which is more concerned with the growth, the rite-of-passage of Takó as he progresses from boyhood to manhood in a country ravaged by the aftermath of the Second World War and under the heel of a Stalinist dictatorship. The other major concern of the film, which is intricately connected to Takó's development, is the mythology that the young boy has created around the memory of his father.
John Cunningham’s complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the DVD release.
A short excerpt from the booklet
MovieMail by Michael Brooke
SubtitledOnline by Karen Rogerson
E-Film blog by Michael Ewins
DVD Beaver by Gary W. Tooze
Sight & Sound by Michael Brooke
Time Out by David Jenkins
New York Times
(i) Interview with István Szabó at BBC's Calling the Shots
(ii) Interview with Szabó at Kinoeye
(ii) Hungarian Cinema: From Coffee House to Multiplex by John Cunningham
(iii) On cinematographer Sándor Sára
(iv) Transmitting the Past in Hungarian Cinema - An essay by Catherine Portuges
(v) Hungary after the German occupation
(vi) The Béla Balázs Studio website