The 68th Cannes Film Festival is a celebration of Hungarian cinema. László Nemes’ debut feature Son of Saul is in the Official Competition. Meanwhile, the Cannes Classics section will pay tribute to Miklós Jancsó by screening his film The Round-Up (Szegénylegények), which was in competition at Cannes in 1966.
Cannes Classics demands the best possible screening quality of masterpieces. The purpose of Cannes Classics is on one hand to promote film restoration, and on the other to showcase the best of recent laboratory works in restoration. The screening copy of the film was restored from its original 35mm negative. The project was completed by the Hungarian Filmlab in collaboration with MaNDA (Hungarian National Digital Archive), and also with the support of the Hungarian National Film Fund. Having The Round-Up back in Cannes is not just a celebration of Hungarian film heritage, but it’s also a demonstration of Hungary’s expertise in post production.
The Round-Up is a must see for anyone who wants to understand Hungarian culture and European art films. Jancsó was a true master of combining visual style, narratology, and the film’s topic itself – and this combination is quite rare. The story is about the retaliation following the Hungarian revolution of 1848, and in the process reveals the working methods of a dictatorship. In The Round-Up, Jancsó perfected his style of long shots by using them on the flat, endless Hungarian fields, moving the crowd and the camera in the same rhythm. Its panorama shots help us to construe the situation, describing the relation of prisoners, soldiers and the people in between them.
The Round-Up did not win the Palme d’Or in 1966. According to rumors, the jury was too tired on the last day of the event to watch it – and the award ceremony was followed by a smaller demonstration by the cinephiles who missed Jancsó’s film among the award winnings. It is also remarkable that more than 1 million people watched the film in Hungary – which is quite a number in a country with a population of 10 million. 10 years after the 1956 revolution The Round-Up had a very special meaning.
Miklós Jancsó had several more works appeared the Cannes Film Festival, and he won Best Director for Red Psalm. But The Round-Up remained his most well-known film. It’s especially great to have the chance to rewatch it a little more than a year after he passed away.
by Dániel Deák