Dir/Writer: Árpád Sopsits | Thriller | Hungary | 118′
For his third feature, director Árpád Sopsits (Videoblues, Abandoned) transports us back to post revolutionary Hungary in this taut and vividly atmospheric historical thriller based on the serial killings of six young women that took place between 1957-67 in the town of Martfű in the South East. The sinister mood of corruption and social unease bleeds into the murder investigation tainting proceedings and forcing local detective Katona (Zsolt Trill) to convict their initial suspect who continued to abused by fellow inmates in prison, while the murders continued.
The tone is cautious and unsettling as gradually events unfold in the industrial town where we first meet unappealing factory-worker Réti (Gabor Jaszberenyi) waiting for his girlfriend, who is later found murdered – but we’re constantly kept unsure of his culpability as he serves his life sentence, remanded from the death penalty, due to his previously clean record. The investigation procedural is complex and fraught with controversy, not least because the head of the inquiry, the rather unsavoury Bóta (Zsolt Anger) is unconvinced they’ve picked the right man, and also fancies Reti’s sister Rita (Szofia Szamosi). Meanwhile factory worker Bognar (Hadjuk Karoly) has been up to no good abusing his wife and attacking other women he meets along the way. His lascivious enjoyment of his victims makes for unsettlingly convincing viewing in Gabor Szabo’s stunning camerawork and lighting, but Sopsits focuses more on evocative sound effects – screams and deep breathing – than vision, keeping us in the dark, quite literally. When Katona’s sidekick Szirmai (Peter Barnai) enters the investigation, scenes of torture and depravity feed into the general atmosphere of corruption, mistrust and unease surrounding the anti-communist uprising of 1956 and there’s much to be admired in Rita Devenyi’s sleek set design. Although overlong, STRANGLED certainly creates an evocative sense of the joyless and sinister era in this small-town microcosm that echoes a wider political landscape. MT
ON RELEASE AT ARTHOUSE VENUES FROM 17 NOVEMBER 2017