Friday 8 October 2010

Review: Children of Glory (2006)

Scripted by Joe Eszterhas and directed by Krisztina Goda, the Hungarian film Children of Glory (Szabadság, Szerelem) (2006) takes as its focus the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and, in particular, the involvement of two characters in the uprising. Karsci (Iván Fenyö) is the country's star sportsman, a water polo player who when we first encounter him is battling the Ruskies in a particularly fierce and charged match. Viki (Kata Dobó) is a student firebrand whose parents were murdered by the Soviets. Viki is initially resistant to the conceited Karsci but the couple are slowly drawn together as the Revolution develops.

There’s plenty that’s wrong with Children of Glory: crude characterisation, heavily sign-posted plot developments, manic cutting in the sports scenes that bookend the film, a swelling score that underlines every dramatic moment. And yet the film is compelling and moving for all that.  Goda doesn’t succeed in quelling Eszterhas’s pulpy, basic instincts as a screenwriter - indeed many of her directorial decisions point up his inadequacies - but the film is certainly a classier affair than Paul Verhoeven’s more widely seen Black Book (2006). Of the performers Dobó proves to be the standout, delivering an intense and charismatic performance.  Fenyö captures the arrogance of the star sportsman, while Sándor Csányi is appealing and amusing as one of his teammates. Like Wajda’s Katyn (2007), Children of Glory is really more of a monument than a movie. But that's precisely where the film's impact finally lies: in its representation of a pivotal moment of 20th Century history that’s been all too rarely dramatised on screen.

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