Reviewed by: Emma Slawinski

A young man (Félix Lajkó) returns to his village on the Danube delta after many years. Little is revealed about the time that has passed since his departure, but he is greeted by a stepfather he has never met before, as well as his mother and sister (Orsi Tóth).

A seemingly happy occasion, the man’s return fractures the family. He decides to build a house out in the marshes, and his sister follows him – at first to help out, and later to live with him. As their relationship becomes increasingly close and intimate, they elicit the disapproval of their family and eventually of the community too.

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Mundruczó’s delta is an astonishingly beautiful expanse of land and water, but it is also a tough, wild frontier, its people hardened and unforgiving. Within it, the doomed love affair between brother and sister unfolds gradually and with the utmost delicacy, accompanied by a sumptuous score – as textured and panoramic as the landscape – composed and played in part by lead actor Felix Lajko himself. The simple narrative is established with sparing dialogue, but the film is rich with the distinct mood of each setting and the intense emotional currents generated by each character, from the playful longing of the sister for her brother to the festering discontent of the stepfather.

Delta chooses not to wrestle with incest as an issue to be examined, preferring the childlike innocence and purity of the love affair to speak for itself. However simple and natural it may seem to the brother and sister, however, it constitutes a luxury that is unbearable to those around them. It’s this that makes it an affront and a source of jealousy to the villagers, rather than any structured moral judgment.

The precise aesthetic of the film amplifies the brutality that is to arise from the choices of the pair. After a momentary calm, the delta reveals itself to be a place where a brutal and absolute sort of justice – not love - will prevail. So in spite of the indisputable beauty of Delta, its eventual bleakness and violence and lack of any enduring message beyond a hopeless loss made me leave the cinema feeling not only heartbroken, but horrified.

Reviewed on: 07 May 2009
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A precarious love affair evolves on the Danube delta.
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Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Writer: Yvette Biro

Starring: Félix Lajkó, Orsolya Tóth, Lili Monori, Sándor Gáspár, Lajos Bertók, Mari Kiss, Martin Wuttke

Year: 2008

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany, Hungary


London 2008

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