The Red and the White

A short excerpt from Andrew James Horton's interview with Miklós Jancsó.

The films made by Miklós Jancsó (born 1921) in the second half of the 1960s, such as The Round-Up (Szegénylegények, 1965). The Red and the White (Csillagosok, katonák, 1967), and Silence and Cry (Csend és kiáltás, 1968) were at the forefront of the revival of Hungarian cinema in that decade, while the starkness of his themes and a distinctive visual style based on the almost constantly moving camera made Jancsó himself one of the most controversial and widely discussed of contemporary directors.

AJH: I know you started to make films in the 1950s, but it's generally agreed that your major work as a director dates from the mid-1960s. Would you say that, over the last twenty years, your style and themes have remained consistent, or do you see a development and change from the earlier work to what you are doing now?

MJ: I'm well aware that most people think that my best films were made during the l960s. In fact there was a poll taken by Hungarian critics this year to choose the best forty films made in the forty years since Hungary's liberation by the Soviet army, and five of these forty films were made by me and all five were made during the 1960s. There seems to have been a return to an earlier outlook, in the sense that people now prefer to see relatively simple stories told in a relatively realistic style, and these films would fit into this category.

Of course, they were considered rather unusual and different at the time they were made, but, even so, they were not all that different from the normal, so-called realistic style. If I were to look at them again, I would probably he surprised myself at how well they fit into the mainstream of realistic film making of the period. I think all this explains why my later films have not been so popular - by "later" films I mean those starting with Égi bárany (Agnus Dei) in 1970. After that I spent about ten years in Italy and I made four feature films and a couple of documentaries there. These films aren't usually taken into account here in Hungary, it's as if they didn't even exist - except for Vizi privati, pubbliche virtú (Private Vices, Public Virtues, 1976) which was quite controversial in Italy and elsewhere.

As for any difference between these later films and the earlier ones, I think the ideas are basically the same, the main difference perhaps is in the style. The later films contain what I would call a "theoretical irony," they are ironical but at the same tine they are not humorous or funny, and this seems to upset both audiences and critics.

AJH: Putting together all that you've been saying, and the way your films themselves have developed, you seem to feel that, both artistically and politically, the audience doesn't want to listen any longer, it doesn't want to be challenged or disturbed. Does film still have any useful role to play in this situation?

MJ: I don't think it's I who have changed; I think the world has. I'm not a pessimist. I think an artist, a film-maker, an ordinary person too, has constantly to say "No" to all the injustices around him. What really matters with a film is how widely it's distributed - its influence depends on that. The position an artist takes on matters of right and wrong, his own personal integrity, doesn't always matter as far as his public image is concerned - though of course I have much more affection for those of my colleagues who stand up against manipulation rather than serving it. All power organisations, the state or the authorities, even the owner of a communications network, however, prefer those who are obedient to those who are not.

Andrew James Horton's complete interview with Miklós Jancsó, from which this short excerpt is taken, appears in the Booklet of the DVD release.

Disc Info

The Red and the White Boxshot

Hungary/USSR 1967
Main Feature: 87 minutes
Special Feature: 54 minutes
Certificate: 12
Black & White
2.35:1 16x9 Enhanced
Language: Hungarian
Subtitles: English On/Off
Region 0
RRP: £12.99
Release Date: 27th March 2006


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