(director/writer: Miklós Jancsó; screenwriters: Gyulam Hernádi/Georgiy Mdivani; cinematographer: Tamas Somlo; editor: Zoltan Farkas; cast: József Madaras ( Istvan ), András Kozák (Laszo), Tibor Molnár (Andras), Jácint Juhász (Janos), Anatoli Yabbarov (Captain Tselpanov), Sergei Nikonenko (Cossack), Krystyna Mikolajewska (Olga), Tatyana Konyukhova (Elizaveta); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jenoe Goetz/András Németh/Kirill Sirjajev; Hungar Film; 1967-Hungary/USSR-in Hungarian with English subtitles)

“It icily captures the gloomy mood of battle, painting each side in the same dismal color.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Set in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, in 1919, it tells of the brutal Civil War that went on from 1918 until 1922. The Hungarian Communists, among many foreign contingents, come to the aid of the Bolsheviks (the Reds) to defeat the Czarists (the Whites), the counter-revolutionists. The endless battles take place in the hills along the Volga in Central Russia and in a field where an abandoned monastery is converted into a garrison headquarters and a hospital.

It looks like Miklós Jancsó’s other war story, The Round-Up, as it emphasizes the same theme of the futility of war, its impersonality and how both sides do the same kind of insane killing to the point you can’t tell one side from the other. Prisoners are captured, stripped, and then shot as they are told they can escape. A buxom peasant girl is about to be raped by a Cossack officer when his superior swoops in and executes him for his misconduct. A nurse, serving both sides by following her medical oath, is accused by the Whites of abetting the Reds, but who is shot by the Reds when they take over the hospital. Jancsó makes his point: war is not the best solution in political matters.

The noted filmmaker is most interested in telling how the powers work in such hardened ways; the combatants’ personal identities are left unclear on purpose, as they are shown to have worth only for political purposes. The black-and-white film is filled with much movement and sweeping tracking shots but little dialogue, as it keeps things moving along at a fast clip by showing the never ending cycle of violence. It icily captures the gloomy mood of battle, painting each side in the same dismal color.

The Red and the White Poster