At the 53rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, the first screening of László Csuja’s film, Blossom Valley took place on Sunday. Unfortunately the director placed too much confidence in the personality of the female protagonist carrying his first film. A REVIEW BY BORI BUJDOSÓ.
A writer-director makes his own work difficult if his central character is obnoxious but falls short of becoming a real antihero. Of course we do not always need to identify with the protagonist, but she needs to radiate something that makes us want to watch her, be it her cruelty, her madness or anything that makes her intriguing.
Watching Blossom Valley I was reminded of Asia Argento’s psychopathic mother figure from The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, the unforgettably bored Faye Dunaway from the beginning of Bonnie and Clyde, and even the drifting Rosetta of the Dardenne brothers. Alas, Bianka, the protagonist of Blossom Valley, is connected to these memorable heroines by some personality traits and some elements of her story, but shares nothing of their charisma.
Watching the boredom of Bianka as played by the amateur Bianka Berényi is boring, her drifting is tiresome, her speech affectation verges on insufferable. The hand-held camera follows her closely as she loiters in the suburban ambience, and driven by a sudden impulse nicks a baby. As she tries to figure out „and now what”, the film offers a momentary chance to get us interested in her troubles: we may pity the girl drifting without any real human relations and trying to anchor herself to someone through this desperate act, but our investment is constricted both by her string of bad decisions and the shortcomings of the script and the acting. Only for very brief instances becomes the whole thing believable.
Bianka grabs hold of the mentally slightly disabled Laci (played by the also amateur László Réti – at least his face suggests some kind of depth, a hidden story that remains unfound by this film), she picks him for want of anyone better as a substitute dad, and thus begins a road movie of travelling, fleeing, and obviously leading nowhere. The primarily documentarist aesthetics of the film is in sharp contrast with the strained story and characters, neither the idyllic days spent with teasing chickens and weaving wreaths of the delusional girl who has fled to nature from the suburbs, nor the solution seeking Laci’s world of workers’ dormitories, black labour, construction work and petty crime come alive.
The debutant director reveals in the press surrounding Blossom Valley that he rewrote the script of a long film project to focus only on its two main characters – and that was where the endeavour might have gone astray: Csuja saw something in these two people and their duo that had either never been there, or that he failed to adapt to the screen. The soft-spoken Laci is obscured by Bianka and her spectacular personality disorders, during most of the screen time we are forced to watch a very annoying girl, and of course the poor baby – the only tension we might feel is the anticipation of someone taking the baby away from them at last.
Occasionally we get a glimpse of what Bianka’s character might have been, for example when she recites to Laci in their stolen trailer her childish image of family life: she will cook, clean and raise the kid, while Laci earns money. With a more elaborate script and skilful directing this could have been a powerful moment, the viewer could painfully realize that this girl has no clue or experience about family life, which could then lead to deciphering what made her the way she is, and we could feel sorry for her injuries. But we never reach that point, as characters are not really built up. We remain on the surface, as Csuja is content with filming just that.
Blossom Valley (shown in Hungary from the 30th of August) was screened in the East of West competition of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, into which mainly first and second films from Eastern Europe are entered. This was the venue where Gábor Reisz’s For Some Inexplicable Reason and Virág Zomborácz’s first film, Afterlife were introduced in 2014. Unfortunately I was far less elated and optimistic this year than I was then.
Translated by Péter Papolczy