Down By Love

"Extraordinary"

Down By Love Review


She's a 24 year old single woman who seduced or was seduced by her foster father when she was 13, following the death of her parents. However the pair came together, Éva (brilliant and winsome Patricia Kovács) has become mentally addicted to 43 year old Tibor (Gábor Máté) to such an extent that she conjures scenes with him in her apartment when he's not there. She berates him for not leaving his wife, Éva's former foster mother Klára (Rita Tallós). She prepares lavish meals by candlelight for the non-present lover. She coos coyly, makes demands, raves, instructs, and succumbs to her images as night turns into day and Monday lapses into Tuesday.

As she verbalizes her thoughts in a fantasy monologue as though talking to someone in the room, or in audible memory flashbacks, we learn that Klára had sent her out of her house and into a convent in an effort to save her marriage when she discovered the illicit affair. Tibor, for his part, recognizes the immorality, if not the illegality, of his acts but continues his secret relationship with the comely girl who is his virtual love slave. He gives her money for partial support which, combined with her earnings as an animation cartoonist, allows her considerable freedom to live alone in the apartment she inherited from her parents and plenty of time to dwell on her obsession.

But the devious Tibor, besides stringing her along with false promises, attempts to cover his ass by paying a neighbor to report Éva's every observable move to him, lest her possessive tendencies turn into something that can bring the legal system down on his conniving neck. Despite the wise pleadings of her foster home sidekick Zsuzsa (Zsuzsa Járó) to allow other men into her life, and despite the declarations of love by a delivery man of her age, Éva clings to her passion for Tibor and fills her every moment with him, real and conjured, awake and asleep. When she tries to bring the lingering situation to a head, she raises a turmoil.

Returning home from an aborted intention to confront Klára, she listens to two contradictory phone calls on her answering machine. In the first, Klára attempts to put Éva in her place by boasting how she and Tibor are still in love and leaving soon for Spain. That's immediately followed by a message from Tibor making a date to come over as though nothing has changed. Éva laughs, then plots her moves. She invites both over at the same time for a final showdown, one which will become tragic in its finality.

This psychological study of obsession turned into madness comes to us from an accomplished set of Hungarian filmmakers. The art of it is in the challenges of a single viewpoint that director Tamás Sas set himself (perhaps with a nod to Roman Polanski's Repulsion) and in a world class performance by Patricia Kovács that vividly fulfills the tight framework of her director's vision. Our eyes never leave this girl or the images of her psychosis. The camera grips her in its focus for every frame while other characters are seen in soft definition or through mottled glass on the peripheries of the composition. And, while this total absorption with a self-isolating character and her fixation might suggest intensity overkill, Sas, his exceptional cinematographer Elemér Ragályi, and Kovács herself, so vary the visual and modal contexts of the drama that fascination remains constant until the somewhat dubious ending.

Light and makeup turn Kovács into a spectrum of changeability. Here she's semi silhouetted by depressing window light on a drab day; there her chameleon face is lit up like an incandescent raggedy doll by the light of her work table. Kovács is an enticing Lolita figure as she bops around her apartment chasing her visions and memories, her behavior arising from a disturbed interior landscape. Her wide range of expression and sensual appeal feed a demanding performance that should be her ticket to recognition and success on American and international film circuits. For my money, this Budapestian newcomer is an international star in the making. Discovery by an American director is all it should take to get that ball rolling. You read it here.

The visual detail of the noirish atmosphere is at the highest level of film resolution. While some might consider the story telling technique a bit gimmicky, the devotion to it and its elegant realization elevates it to cinematic artistry. Don't get it confused with Renée Zellwegger's Down With Love or Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law. Down by Love is an art house film whose future fans should be crying for its widest possible distribution.

Aka Szerelemtöl sújtva.

The three faces of Eva.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Friday 5th March 2004

Budget: $3M

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Tamás Sas

Producer: Dénes Szekeres

Starring: Patricia Kovács as Éva, Gábor Máté as Tibor, Gábor Máté as Auntie Lenke, Imre Csuja as Lenke's son, Rita Tallós as Klára, Zsuzsa Járó as Zsuzsa

Also starring: ,

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