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FAMILY NEST (Családi tüzfészek)(director/writer: Bela Tarr; cinematographer: Ferenc Pap; editor: Anna Kornis; music: ; cast: Laszlone Horvath (Irén), László Horváth (Laci), Gábor Kun (Laci apja), Gábor Ifj. Kun (Gabi, Laci testvére), Gaborne Kún (Laci anyja), Adrienne Kadar (Doctor), Jánosné Szekeres (A sógornõ), Jozsef Korn (Lakásügyi elõadó), Irén Rácz (Irén kolleganõje), Jánosné Oláh (Valika), Krisztina Horváth (Krisztike); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; Facets; 1977-Hungary-in Hungarian with English subtitles)
“It shows the talented Tarr at his greenest, much before his later skills were more fully developed.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This was Hungarian director Bela Tarr’s (“Almanac of Fall”/”Damnation”/”Satantango”/”Werckmeister Harmonies”) film debut at 22, it was only after he made that film did he attend film school; it’s a drab slice of life social realism film about a desperate family unable to cope with economic conditions in a crumbling communist country; it’s shot in an almost documentary style in black and white. It shows the talented Tarr at his greenest, much before his later skills were more fully developed.

Family Nest looks at the serious problems facing a twentysomething couple who have been married for seven years, Iren and Laci, and also their young feisty daughter Kristi. They have been forced because of a housing shortage in the communist Hungary of the 1970s to live in the cramped one-room Budapest flat of Laci’s grouchy factory worker father. Also present are Laci’s 27-year-old irresponsible and unemployed brother Gabor and his young adult sister, and his embittered mother. The overcrowded flat causes an ill temper among all parties, as Laci returns from a two year tour of duty in the military and is lectured to by his unwise father for not reenlisting and thereby possibly saving up to get an apartment on his own. There’s one squabble after another. All the men prove to be brutes, the women martyrs. This ordinary family believes all their problems can be solved by getting adequate housing. Iren visits social services every week to press her claim for an apartment, but is given the cold shoulder as the bureaucratic official explains an apartment is given once a year on a points basis and she’s at least three years away from getting her own place.

The families biggest argument involves Laci’s father calling Iren a whore and getting his son to believe she was unfaithful to him during his service days, which causes Iren to split with her daughter in tow to squatter in a vacant apartment. It turns out the old man is a greedy pig who made advances at Iren but was rejected.

It’s filmed with a steady camera that concentrates on close-ups and mid-shots (the film wasn’t particularly interesting visually as were his later films after 1982). Music is used to enhance the narrative in a spirited way: at one point the radio plays the state’s official music to end an unhappy family kitchen scene and on another occasion corny bubblegum music is played while the family is on an outing at a carnival.

This film was funded by the government-supported Bela Belazs Studio.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”