Reviewed by: David Stanners

If you ever visit Budapest, you might think twice about scamming free rides on the underground after watching Control, as director Nimród Antal has orchestrated a bizarre, surreal and humorous insight into the lives of a misfit gang of underground ticket inspectors.

It's difficult to work out who's weirder, those that hang around the underground, or the inspectors who are supposed to maintain order. Ticket inspecting seems like a fairly mundane and easy job on paper, but just try and get these Budapest locals to part with cash for a ticket. Easier said than done.

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The underground is governed by a motley culture of rival gang inspectors, furiously competing against each other for control of the railways. This is manifested in many ways, but most saliently, by their "railing" duels. Here, two rivals arrange to meet on a particular line, at a particular time. They go onto the tracks and chase the recently departed train through the tunnel to the next stop, hoping to make it to the platform before the next train - The Midnight Express - steamrolls them under the rails. A good way to break the monotony!

In between railing to the death, chasing frequent ticket dodgers and arbitrarily harassing people, our team of inspectors are also faced with a mysterious hooded killer, randomly pushing innocent people in front of trains.

The film is just as much character driven, as incident led. First of all there's Muki, a tall highly strung fellow with an inclination to faint at any given moment. Then there's Bulcsú, our protagonist. He's dark, mysterious and twentysomething, with little to say, but plenty to do. At one stage, he finds himself hot on the trail of the mysterious, possibly supernatural, killer, drawing himself into a disturbing and haunting climactic experience.

Unlike the rest, Bulcsú is well educated and seems to be looking for some purpose in life. He meets a girl dressed as a pink bear on the train, who turns out to be Bela's (one of the train drivers) daughter. Taking a shining to each other in the most bizarre of rendezvous, they both go to a techno fuelled underground ball together - a scene, sufficiently intangible to look at home in a David Lynch movie.

Control is a highly eclectic tableaux of darkness and humour, life and death, characters and incidents, supernatural and commonplace. From a pink teddy bear to a dark destroyer, Antal has cut and pasted everything he could get his hands on to this dark canvas. His efforts work well in reflecting the random, chaotic nature of underground culture, as well as the interesting range of people employed in this mayhem. The problem is that there are too many ingredients in the pot. A pastiche combining comedy, the supernatural, gritty realism and fantasy is highly ambitious and almost works a treat, but, in the end, chops and changes from one thing to the next, never deciding which way to go.

The result is a slightly clumsy rendition, but never a dull one.

Reviewed on: 16 Aug 2004
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A bizarre fictional insight into the idiosyncratic lives of Budapest’s underground train inspectors.
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Director: Nimród Antal

Writer: Jim Adler, Nimród Antal

Starring: Sándor Csányi, Csaba Pindroch, Zsolt Nagy, Gyözö Szabó, Eszter Balla, Lajos Kovács

Year: 2003

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: Hungary


EIFF 2004
SSFF 2014

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