A short excerpt from the Booklet essay by Penelope Houston
My Way Home is the crossroads in Jancsó’s career. In it he was “balancing with one foot on individual psychology and the other on history; The Round-Up is already virtually in its entirety about history.” My Way Home is human, accessible, involved up to a point in character analysis, even though the thing the people in it would do is talk about themselves. The three films that come after – The Round-Up, The Red and the White and Silence and Cry – make up a kind of trilogy. Self-enclosed works, aloof, dispassionate and enigmatic, they are films sealed off in their own hermetic time-capsules, in which executioners and victims, soldiers and peasants, the betrayers and the betrayed, circle endlessly in a freezing ritual. And at the same time they are works of real historical precision: 1860, 1918, 1919, ominous dates in a country’s ominous history.
Jancsó’s style seems to me essentially purposive; but before trying to come to terms with the purpose, the justification for the cold rituals and the doling out and acceptance of humiliation, there is the manner of the films. Visually, everything begins with landscape: the horizontal compositions imposed, as it were, by the great grasslands stretching away into an endless distance. Jancsó is one of the few film-makers (Ichikawa is perhaps another) who seem to compose fundamentally for a wide screen, so that one can’t conceive of their shots compressed back into a more upright and less flattened screen shape.
But landscape fulfils another function: this country, as Jancsó films it, seems at once the most open and the most terrifying in the world. There is no hiding place; nowhere to run to; no dark corners to shelter him in, or to suspect as obvious sources of danger. With so much space, it seems impossible that anyone can ever be taken by surprise; and yet people constantly are – by the enemy cavalry troop, or the police patrol arriving out of nowhere. Jancsó brings into regular employment the principle used by Hitchcock for a few minutes in North by Northwest, when the crop-dusting, bullet-spraying plane descends from a clear sky: the special quality of danger in the daylight. And this landscape allows an extreme isolation of characters and situations. Soldiers or policemen impose their own context on the stolid peasants (“We live here. We’re always here,” says the father to whom István tries to escape). But perhaps this sense of extraordinary man-made rules could only be accepted without strain in a landscape which itself swallows up people.
Penelope Houston's complete Essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the Booklet of the DVD release.
Length / Main Feature: 98 minutes
Length / Special Feature: 50 minutes
Sound: Original mono
Black & White
1.78:1 16x9 Enhanced
Subtitles: English On/Off
Release Date: 1st October 2007
Second Run DVD 024