The Annunciation (András Jeles, 1984)

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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domino harvey
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The Annunciation (András Jeles, 1984)

#1 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:36 am

I don't know much about the Annunciation / Angyali üdvözlet other than that it popped up in the sidebar for some unrelated video on YouTube and idle curiosity gave way to total immersion in this magical piece of cinematic poetry. This is the kind of film that you hate to finish in the middle of the night, because all I want to do right now is call everyone I know and tell them to watch this. With the Annunciation, Hungarian director András Jeles gives the audience a brief history of mankind, starting with Adam and ending in Dickensian (?) England, as revealed by Lucifer to a curious Adam post-exile. That'd be intriguing enough were it not for the kicker: the entire film is cast solely with children aged 8-12.

This isn't merely a Biblical Bugsy Malone, as the kids used here are skillfully directed and perform within the necessary perimeters of poeticism Jeles is presenting. But the universal use of child actors in the narrative, beyond their symbolic function, disorients, lending depictions of awakenings in all its formats (violence, affection, revolution, &c) a woozy imbalance. There are times when yes, the actions do feel a bit like an art house preamble to a Max Fischer production, but mostly the film comes across not as a large scale school play but as a stone-faced engage-or-die Art with a Capital A experiment. And as Art it is as successful as anything could be. All the obvious readings of history as stonefaced playtime are valid and worthy and worth thinking about, but above all critical responses my immediate one was literal mouth agape awe at the audacity on display.

From what I can gather there's no commercial DVD release of this film (not surprising given some of the content), but the version up on YouTube looks pretty good-- the burnt in English subs are sometimes awkwardly phrased, but whether the effect is intentional or not, it lends everything a self-serious, consciously constructed air that works smartly with the overall feel of the film. This is a fabulously visual film and so in the interest of piquing some adventurous souls into checking it out, here's some screencaps:


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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Annunciation (András Jeles, 1984)

#2 Post by knives » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:34 am

Probably the reason it ends when (and seemingly where) it does is because the play it is based on was written in the 19th century.

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dorat89
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:07 pm

Re: The Annunciation (András Jeles, 1984)

#3 Post by dorat89 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 11:04 am

I've never posted here, but I thought I could chime in on this, as I've seen the film and read the play it's based on, Imre Madách's "The Tragedy of Man." Like Domino, I came across the film by chance on the Internet and thought it sounded interesting, though at the time I couldn't find a version to watch. I ended up reading the play instead, which doesn't appear to be in print in English anymore, despite the fact that it seems to be a bit of a national epic in Hungary. Like the film, it's an episodic tour though human history with Lucifer as the guide and Adam as a perennially thwarted lover/tragic hero. Unlike the film, it doesn't end with the London scene, but continues with episodes in a future Ice Age where Earth is inhabited entirely by pygmy Eskimos and also a post-heat death universe composed of formless slag. It's essentially a dialogue between Adam and Lucifer about the futility of human endeavor and history as a slowly winding-down cycle, with a resigned/tentatively hopeful conclusion. Milton comparisons come pretty easy, even down to Madách's involvement in the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

As for the film, I think the use of child actors actually lends it a sense of uneasy humor, which is pretty much entirely absent in the play, save for the kaleidoscopic London scene. Despite the seriousness of the proceedings, I thought the stonefaced performances have a bit of a Keaton-eque irony about them. The play, in translation anyway, sometimes sags a bit under its own grandiosity, though Jeles' school-pageant-as-fever-dream approach successfully avoids that issue. It's also a pretty convenient, if risky, way of accentuating the sense of hopelessness prevalent in much of the play. How could these kids help but be crushed by the weight of history?

In any case, it's a pretty great film that, like the play, deserves more attention than it's gotten. I'm glad Domino brought it up, as now I know that I'm not the only person in the western hemisphere to have seen it in the last 30 years!

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solaris72
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 3:03 pm
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Re: The Annunciation (András Jeles, 1984)

#4 Post by solaris72 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:23 pm

There's another film version of the same play by Marcell Jankovics that takes about as different an approach as can be- it's cel animated, and looks kind of like a cross between Fantasia, Intolerance and Yellow Submarine. In production from 1989 to 2009, it finally premiered at festivals last year; hope it gets distribution soon, it's currently the film I'm most eagerly anticipating.

Trailer can be seen here.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Annunciation (András Jeles, 1984)

#5 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jun 09, 2013 9:04 am

Great first post, dorat89! And thanks solaris72 for the information about the modern adaptation-- it should be interesting to compare this to a "straight" adaptation

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swo17
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Re: The Annunciation (András Jeles, 1984)

#6 Post by swo17 » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:56 pm

Some caps from the LWFC bootleg DVD for this film. If you can find a copy (I got one relatively cheap on eBay), it looks a lot better than the YouTube version!

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furbicide
Joined: Thu Dec 29, 2011 4:52 am

Re: The Annunciation (András Jeles, 1984)

#7 Post by furbicide » Wed Sep 10, 2014 9:28 am

It's a really great, albeit strange film. Obviously owes a lot to the source text, but I find the dialogue mesmerising. One of the very few films (2001: A Space Odyssey and My American Uncle also come to mind) that look down on Homo sapiens from some higher vantage point and find something interesting to report.

Does anyone know if it's had any retrospective/festival showings in recent years?

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