The Angelmakers

The Angelmakers


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Many documentaries focus on events that shook the world - the Second World War seems particularly popular at the moment - or on political machinations. Now and again, a more intimate investigation of a specific event comes along.

The Angelmakers is one such film, dealing with a spate of arsenic murders in a tiny village in rural Hungary back in 1929, when 51 women were held responsible for killing their husbands.

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Today the town of Nagyrev is probably even sleepier than it was back in the Twenties and director Astrid Bussink allows the residents - many of them very elderly - to recount their stories from the time of the murders.

This is an intimate portrait - and much the better for it. Instead of inflicting a narrator on the piece, the story of how the women came to discover that flypaper and water could make the perfect poison and why they chose to use it emerges gradually.

"The men were in the way," says one old grandma, while others are convinced it was more of an escape route. Divorce wasn't possible at the time and many of the men "drank and beat their wives."

What is perhaps most interesting about this short film is the revelations about the relationship between men and women in small town Hungary, then and now. Still, it seems tricky for women to get the freedom they want and yet they manage it, many opting for the divorce route, while others simply stick up for themselves more.

Those who remember the tragic events 76 years ago are fantastic characters, open and honest in their opinions and allowed to be themselves without the guiding voice of an interviewer. This intimacy makes for a fascinating and compelling film.

The Angelmakers has been selected for the First Appearance competition at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. On the strength of this, I think it will be the first of many for Bussink.

Reviewed on: 23 Nov 2005
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Why did 51 Hungarian women poison their husbands in a small rural town in 1929?

Director: Astrid Bussink

Year: 2005

Runtime: 30 minutes

Country: UK


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