The simplest recipe is that of success: write it, direct it, act it. That is the third season of In Treatment to a tee. BY JUDIT CSÁKI.
The idea – that is the license, the know-how – is imported, the series, nonetheless, is very „Hungarian”: familiar, real, even cosy. There is a lot more reality in it than in the trash reality shows, the characters are more real than the celebrities appearing in trash shows. Although the psychologist and his client, the existential, emotional and other problems, living a lie and having a muddled self-image are all phenomena or repercussions of civilisation; they turn up wherever mere survival ceases to be the greatest issue of existence.
The palette of the third – and final – season is much darker than that of the first two: the most run-of-the-mill couch of András Dargay, the psychologist, is visited by fundamental problems, such as a life in ruins, the loss of freedom, death, everyday failures. The laments of Krisztina, the patient on Tuesdays are outright refreshing, as they orbit around the old wisdom of how difficult it is to bear affluence.
Granted, this is quite commonplace, but Krisztina of Tuesdays was written to be typical by István Tasnádi, whose professionalism is also demonstrated by the way he spices up the typical with a few idiosyncrasies. The viewers who willingly or reluctantly hand over the reins of their lives to others can identify with her, and those who do not suffer from the tediousness of compulsive hand washing can recognize their neighbours. Judit Schell becomes Krisztina with ease: the voluntary slave with a tight pony tail, the woman getting a taste for freedom with hair hanging loose.
The state of affairs on other days is a lot graver: Zsolt, the Monday patient – played by Benett Vilmányi with a deep reaching acting effectively blending sensitivity and aggression – is an inmate, he killed his highly abusive father ten years ago, and is now being accused with the murder of his girl-friend. A crime he never committed, but accepts as self-penitence. It would be the job of the psychologist to dissuade him from this plan, to get him to know and accept himself. Zsolt describes the horrors of the home as „Armageddon”, which does not quite befit his character, but with regard to his situation, it is presumably accurate all the same. We see a beautiful see-saw of their chemistry, as the psychologist portrayed by Pál Mácsai „cracks” under hopelessness, but will not give up. This episode was written and directed by Attila Gigor, the main custodian of the series.
The character of Edit is as if it was tailor made for Dorottya Udvaros. The ageing diva seeks help on the pretext of forgetting her lines every now and then, but in truth it is raging difficulties of emotions and relationships behind the demanding profession that upset her inner equilibrium. The episodes written by Viki Jeli explore the relationship between Edit and her younger sister, a bond burdened by countless conflicts, and to top it all with an extremely critical circumstance, the sister is in the last stage of her illness. To face dying and death, Edit has to scrutinize herself: Udvaros swings offhandedly between depth and the burbling surface.
The best case of In Treatment 3., the real gem of the season is that of Sándor, the patient of Wednesdays. His character and his problems are the richest and the most sensitive regarding both the script – Csaba Székely – and the directing – Ildikó Enyedi. Sándor, originally from Transylvania, having moved in with his son’s family in Budapest, understandably finds himself ill at ease. The object and objective of the therapy is his difficulty to adapt – as just about everything is wrong in his new environment -, but the essence of these episodes is the portrait of an exceptional personality. The acting of József Czintos amazes those who are not too familiar with his work, and enchants those of us who know who he is. The usual equanimity of the psychologist of Pál Mácsai is now enriched with the experience of aroused curiosity and acquaintance: this patient is different from the others. The subplot brings forth a psychological thriller component as well – the crown jewel of the story deserving its own feature film.
It is little wonder that the psychologist himself needs therapy as well: I would most certainly flee screaming from the snow white ambience of the consulting room of Adél, the young and ice-cold professional, but I do understand that this anxious man in his fifties suffering from a mid-life crisis (as well) is attracted to a world that is so much at odds with his own environment and personality. The performance of Móni Balsai keeps the character very consistently in the realm of stability and composure, making the odd moments of quivering a real tour-de-force of acting. The episode was written by György Baráthy and directed by Orsi Nagypál.
Pál Mácsai transformed into the psychologist András Dargay from head to toe – if I ever needed treatment, I would not hesitate to sit down opposite to him on the couch in his bleak office clad in the disguise of snugness. On his countenance he wears not only the battered intellectual, but also the psychologist squeezed under the pressure of his profession; in his gaze we see the desire for refinement and the sorrow of confinement.
Sophistication and professional ambition on the parts of the writers and the directors – most television series usually lack one or both. And first-class actors give their best; in a few minor roles István Znamenák, Kata Pető, Alexandra Borbély and others pick up the pace with the same quality. The cameramen – the director of photography is Máté Herbai, the two cameramen are Balázs Szügyi and Ádám Fillenz – are masters of the talking heads genre. We never get bored of the shots of two people facing one another.
Under a microscope I may find faults with both the dialogues and one or two performances. A few plot morsels are left hanging in the air. But at times such things do not matter, because we simply go with the tide: this is one of those times. The stories are rounded up and off by the end, and perhaps with the sole exception of the protagonist the fates reach their rest positions. The rest positions are filled with sorrow, just like in real life. And yet, it’s a shame that it has come to an end.