The Hungarian “Angi Vera” was a critical darling on the film festival circuit, but I can’t imagine the average occidental moviegoer finding much pleasure in this often cold and dreary drama.
Set in communist Hungary circa 1948, the movie is an examination on the effect politics can have on everyday people as seen through the eyes of Angi, a bright, headstrong nurse who is forcibly sent to a political re-education camp after speaking out against the terrible working conditions of her peers.
Writer/director Pál Gábor achieves strong performances from much of his cast, particularly a couple of brassy broads Angi encounters at the camp played by Éva Szabó and Erzsi Pásztor.
Come to think of it, “Angi Vera” is an unusually pro-female flick all around. There are men in Angi’s orbit, but they are given little more to do than drool over the poor girl as if having a strong will was the love potion that dropped post-war central European men to their proverbial knees.
The movie begins as a character study that gradually morphs into a romance between Angi and her tutor, István (Tamás Dunai), but neither the political half of the film nor the doomed romance (István is married with child) are as absorbing or potent as Gábor would like to believe.
Which brings me to Veronika Papp in the title role. Papp’s presence in the film is indelible — she brightens every scene she is in, and your heart breaks for Angi every step of the way because Papp so expertly sells you on the grief and emotional anguish Angi is suffering as her social life and her homeland simultaneously begin taking on new forms. Its a riveting, gut-punch of a performance for an actress of 23.
Now, if only the emotionally draining movie she is starring in were half as captivating, we’d be in business.
Not rated, but contains frank nudity
Director: Pál Gábor
Starring: Veronika Papp, Tamás Dunai
★★ (out of ★★★★)