by Luke Baumgarten & r & Kontroll & r & You can tell there was some internal dissent in the Budapest transit authority over letting director Nimr & oacute;d Antal shoot a movie about murders, negligent ticket-takers and littering on their subway. There was so much controversy about the filming itself, that the DVD begins with one of the transit directors reading a statement about why they let it happen (and how this in no way reflects the actual goings on of the world's third-oldest subway).
After watching the movie, it's pretty understandable, especially coming from a former communist bureaucracy. The film centers around members of the Kontroll party, which sounds vaguely Orwellian... and it is, but in a perverse way. These Kontroll employees are broken up into "crews" (meant to have gang connotations) that roam the subway making sure people have bought tickets and not just hopped the turnstile. You might imagine there'd be a lot of skull-cracking, and you're right. But it's mostly the Kontroll men getting the crap kicked out of them. See, not only are they despised and their authority openly flouted, but they don't seem to have any real power. Seems like pretty much the worst job in the world.
In the face of their own futility, the crews descend into backbiting and mob violence against their customers and against other crews. To make matters worse, there's a disturbing string of suicides from people jumping in front of trains. The day-to-day reality in this place is, basically, anarchy. So it's kinda like the opposite of Orwellian, in that the problem here is not too much control, but the complete lack of it.
Bulcs & uacute; (S & aacute;ndor Cs & aacute;nyi), our protagonist, is the leader of the worst crew. One guy is new, the other is narcoleptic and the other two are old and seem to share halves of the same crotchety, disagreeable brain. He's got his own problems and seems to have escaped to the subway, fleeing his own potential. As he works through his issues, events swirl into an increasingly surrealistic and arresting vortex that causes us to doubt our senses. The more we doubt ourselves, strangely, the more we trust Bulcs & uacute;.
Kontroll is a captivating look at a certain kind of mindset. I hesitate to call it tacitly European or Hungarian, but it's definitely alien. In the best way.