Monday, 2 August 2010
Last night I went to see the only Hungarian film at the Melbourne International Film Festival, Biblioteque Pascal. The film opens with half-Hungarian, half-Romanian Mona at the offices of the Romanian Child Protection Agency. She's trying to regain custody of her young daughter, who has been removed from the care of Mona's fortune-telling aunt while Mona was overseas.
When asked to explain the circumstances that led up to her leaving Transylvania for England, she tells a fantastic story about the father of her child being a dream-projecting gangster, being sold into the international sex trade by her father, and ending up in a high-class Liverpool brothel (the titular Biblioteque Pascal) with themed rooms where prostitutes act as literary characters - Lolita, Pinocchio, Dorian Gray, Joan of Arc. After attacking the proprieter, she is sentenced to die in the Desdemona room, but is resuced in the nick of time by her father in a dream projected by her daughter.
It sounds like a rather seedy story, and there are some quite confronting scenes, but it's saved by the lush visuals and gorgeous dream sequences, as well as the extremely likable main character. It's a strange, surreal film, like a dark fairy tale, and as the story becomes more and more fantastic, the viewer is left to wonder what actually happened, and what is simply a story created by Mona to help her deal with the reality of her situation.