Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"The Notebook": Hungarian film shows boys turning savage during war conditions

The Notebook” (“A nagy fuzet”), by Janos Szasz, is a grim presentation of how war and conflict hardens kids or growing boys.  In 1944, a mother leaves her twin boys (Laszlo and Andras Gyemant) with their alcoholic grandmother (Piroska Molnar) in Hungary, near the Austrian border and a Nazi encampment.
The boys didn’t even know they had grandparents, and grandma is quite unpopular in the village anyway because of her boorish manners.  The boys try to immunize themselves from the pain of war by hurting themselves and going through self-imposed rituals that remind one of ancient Sparta. The film shows graphic bombings, and the rigors of rural farm and village life. 
The boys keep track of their lives in a handwritten diary or “notebook”, which in fantasy gives itself to crude animations of war.  In one scene, the triumphant end of the Tchaikovsky Symphony #5 plays during war carnage, when the Pathetique would have been more appropriate.
The film provides some insight into how young men become radicalized, a pertinent issue today. Perhaps there is a bit of "Lord of the Flies" in the concept, too.  
The official site is here (Sony Pictures Classics).  The film was released in late August and had fair theatrical presence but the DVD has come out pretty quickly on Netflix.

The film should not be confused with the 2004 romantic drama by the same name. 

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