Synopsis: György Szomjas’s first feature—made after a decade of short documentaries—is a bold attempt at a goulash western, set on the puszta, or Great Hungarian Plain, in 1837. Mixing Miklós Jancsó imagery and a Sergio Leone narrative, this ballad-like saga opens with image of a lone horseman on the empty plain, riding past a rude gallows. The film concerns the vengeful return of a legendary betyár (outlaw), briefly a hero to the local herdsmen who oppose the state building a canal across their grazing land. Although Szomjas works from ethnographic records and archival material, it is hardly surprising that this violent, primitivist film would be more popular with Hungarian audiences than critics. Replete with young guns, crooked sheriffs, tavern brawlers and hardbitten plug-uglies, this widescreen film is strikingly shot by Elémer Ragályi (cinematographer for most of Gyula Gazdag’s films)—a feast of loamy, autumnal colors.
Runtime: 90 minutes