Despite the fact that we have not been spared from the pandemic in 2021, we can close a successful film year, not only regarding Hungarian productions but also regarding movies shot in Hungary. Indeed, even in 2021, Hungary was a center of filmmaking, with a number of productions shot here and featuring some of the biggest names in the acting industry. Among others, Mel Gibson recently visited Budapest.
Hungary has been one of the most important movie production locations in the world for several years. Due to the favorable conditions, dozens of foreign productions are made here each year. Not even the COVID pandemic could change that. Let’s see which foreign productions were created here this year. In the second half of the article, we will then look at the biggest Hungarian productions.
After the lockdown, Hungarian studios opened relatively fast in the spring and international super productions like Dune starring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent with Nicolas Cage were shot in compliance with safety standards. Episodes of the video game series Halo and the German Netflix series Terra Vision were also produced here.
Regarding Dune, almost every minute of the Science Fiction movie was shot in Hungary, except the desert scenes, which were shot in Jordan.
Netflix has also been filming in Hungary again, with the fifth season of The Lost Kingdom and the third season of Jack Ryan. Cate Blanchett and Kevin Hart came to Hungary to film Borderlands. After The Black Widow, they also shot a Marvel production this year, namely Moon Knight.
Smaller films also returned to Hungary, including My Best Friend Anne Frank, a Dutch drama based on the memoirs of Frank’s friend, Hannah Goslar, and shot under the new COVID-19 restrictions, and the impressively titled The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, mentioned above, a meta-comedy starring Nicolas Cage as… Nicolas Cage.
“It’s really remarkable that we’ve kept going given all the challenges we’ve faced since the crisis began,” said Adam Goodman, head of MidAtlantic Films, Hungary’s leading production services company.
Also, Danish director Bille August filmed the riding and war scenes of his latest movie The Kiss, a love story on the big screen, in Hungary.
The Oscar and Palme d’Or-winning director of “Pelle the Conqueror” adapted the novel The Restless Heart by Austrian author Stefan Zweig from 1939 and transferred it into a Danish setting, according to Gül Togay, creative producer of Filmsquad, who was involved in the production of the Danish film together with producer István Major. The original story takes place in the Austrian-Hungarian Kingdom during the First World War and is about a special love affair infiltrated by war with all its absurdities. According to Gül Togay, the Danish “crew” was brought to Hungary because of their confidence in Hungarian settings, the world-famous equestrian stuntmen, and the Hungarian partner producers.
“The Hungarian architects and set designers are very experienced, they have worked on many American giga productions, for example, they built a trench for the Danish production that looks like a real trench in an archive film,” admitted the creative producer.
Two-time Oscar and Golden Globe winner, Mel Gibson, also came to Budapest in November for the shooting of his latest series.
The mini-series Continental is a pre-story to the John Wick movies. The actor filmed in several historic buildings in Budapest, but anyone who knows the original movies knows that the scenes are not about showing their beauty, as the movies are about a hitman.
Hungarian movie productions of 2021
We start the list of Hungarian movies with Post Mortem by Péter Bergendy, which was already shot in 2019, but due to the pandemic only premiered this year. The movie has been shown at 28 foreign festivals worldwide – 18 of which in the main competition program – and received a total of 23 awards. It also won the most prizes (in 10 categories) at one of the world’s most prestigious festivals for horror, science fiction, action, and cult movies, the 15th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, at which the audience votes and not the jury.
Viktor Klem as Tomás and Fruzsina Hais as Anna in Post Mortem. Photo by Attila Szvacsek/Szupermodern Filmstúdió
FactThe First World War is over. The Spanish flu came to an end, but many of the deceased remained unburied and were trapped in our world. They are increasingly angry that they cannot find peace. In the icy winter of 1918, Tomás (Viktor Klem), a young Cavalry photographer, tries to make a living by taking the last photos of the dead with their families. After an invitation from a ten-year-old girl, he travels to a little village where he is confronted with a lot of work and an increasing number of supernatural phenomena. The spirits want to tell him something and he is determined to find out what they want. But this work does not come without its dangers. Every wrong move leads to a new attack of the spirits, which is even crueler than the last one. The spirits don’t want to live in peace with the living.
The movie is worth watching, but you should not have great expectations. Those who are well-versed in the world of horror movies are going to laugh instead of being frightened. This is also shown by the acting of the young lead actress, who is constantly smiling instead of being deathly afraid. The jump-scares did not really work, although the effects were very well done. Despite the good storyline, there are a lot of loose ends and you often lose the thread.
Áron Molnár as Győző Szabó in Toxikoma. Source: Screen capture from YouTube
Gábor Herendi’s new public film Toxikoma is based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Hungarian actor, Győző Szabó, which tells the story of two protagonists, the drug-addicted man (Áron Molnár as Győző Szabó), and the God-playing psychiatrist (Barna Kelemen Bányai as Imre Csernus), who fall out and become friends. The book tells the most difficult years in the life of the popular actor, a drug binge that lasts for years and ends with everything collapsing around Győző until he finally decides to go to rehab. Here he meets Dr. Csernus, and the film begins from here, depicting the ego struggle between the two dominant men in the psychiatric ward. Each goes his own way and learns something from the other that will change his own life for the better. Győző and Imre fight against each other, but eventually both come to the realization that they can only move forward together.
Magyar Passió (Hungarian Passion)
Károly Eperjes as Father Leopold in Magyar Passió. Photo: Screen capture from YouTube
Set in 1950, the film tells the story of Father Leopold’s (Károly Eperjes) struggle with his confreres to revive the Franciscan order in a post-war country. At first, the communist authorities do not prevent them from doing so, and they even get back their religious items that were taken away during the war. This “peaceful” state does not last long. Father Leopold is arrested on flimsy grounds and cruelly tortured in attempts to break him. His former student, a young officer who had turned away from religion and believed in the communist system, Lieutenant Keller (Péter Telekes), is assigned to extort a confession on the orders of Major Fedorov. But the father’s persistence and resistance change everything…
A scene of Elk*rtuk. Photo: Screen capture from YouTube
If there was a prize for the most criticized movies, Elk*rtuk would certainly win it, as it is probably the Hungarian movie that has caused the most conflict in society. In light of the upcoming elections, the timing and the topic of the movie is not a coincidence. The movie depicts the violent demonstrations in Budapest in 2006 from a unique perspective, in which the main villain is not the former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, but his wife Klára Dobrev, who just a few months ago was the opposition’s most likely candidate for prime minister. The movie is more a political product than an artistic work. The audience’s opinion is reflected in the IMDb rating of 1.5.
FactIn 2006, riots took place in Budapest. The leaked speech of then-Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány deeply shook people’s confidence in democracy and the post-communist regime change. Hungary’s first political thriller based on real events takes the audience through the story of a young and aspiring journalist back to this time.
You can find a full list of the movies here.
Featured image: Viktor Klem during the shooting of the film “Post Mortem”. Photo by Attila Szvacsek/Szupermodern Filmstúdió