The lines from Sylvia Plath poem “Mad Girl’s Love Song” about the futility of falling in love with an imaginary person set the mood at the start of this quietly gripping psychodrama.
Marta Visy (beautifully cast, blue-eyed Natasa Stork) is an accomplished neurosurgeon who flies back to Hungary from the US after a 20 year absence to meet with Janos Drexler (Victor Bodo) who she has fallen in love with at an academic convention in New Jersey a month earlier. He is an eminent neurosurgeon and celebrity author.
They have agreed to meet at the Liberty Bridge in Budapest at an appointed time. But Janos does not turn up – and when they do meet, he tells her he has never seen her before.
Is he gaslighting her? Is this a romantic delusion – or is 39 year old Marta so desperate that she has invented the connection? Is she gaslighting herself? She faints, and is helped by passers-by and Alex (Benett Vilmanyl) a fourth year medical student.
Marta begins to wonder if she has imagined the meeting and the mutual attraction and decides to stay in a scungy apartment with a view of the bridge. She finds work at a male dominated hospital – where Janos is a consulting surgeon- and is treated as an outsider.
During a complicated and successful brain operation on Alex’s father, she proves her ability in handling the human brain. Alex is infatuated and tries to court her with little success.
She consults a therapist (Peter Toth) who suggests that she is looking for a diagnosis of mental illness to cover for the man she loves, who is perhaps a liar, or worse.
We see looks and glances between the two doctors as they walk on either side of a road before Janos mysteriously disappears – or does he just take another footpath?
There are many ambiguities in this engrossing second feature film written and directed by Lili Horvat (The Wednesday Child). It was Hungary’s selection for Best International Feature Film in the 2021 Academy Awards, but wasn’t nominated. It has however won ten awards nationally.
Beautifully shot in 35 mm by Robert Maly, and a strong performance from Natasa Stork, with a musical score of opera and chamber music by Gabor Kereszte all add to the strange enigmatic mood of this fine film.
Showing exclusively at Luna Leederville from 30 September.
Watch the trailer…