The Round-Up

A short excerpt from the Booklet essay by John Cunningham

He [Jancsó] occupies a unique place in Hungarian culture. If he hadn't made such films as The Round-Up, My Way Home, The Red and the White, and others, there would have been a void. Just like Bartók in music and Attila József in poetry, Jancsó expressed the spirit of his nation and its historical destiny in cinema.
- István Szabó (quoted in Soviet Film no. 1989, p. 26)

Many critics and commentators begin their analyses of Miklós Jancsó's films, particularly those of the 60s and 70s with descriptions of the settings: the wide open spaces, the flat horizons, a bleached and glittering sand dune or an isolated figure adrift in an often striking, even beautiful but potentially dangerous landscape. In Jancsó's classic The Round-Up a prison stockade stands gaunt on the featureless - flat as a billiard-table - Hungarian Plain, gates open and close revealing either the claustrophobia of internment or the great expanse beyond where freedom beckons but is unattainable. Figures emerge on distant flat horizons while the sun beats down mercilessly on the dry baked soil. Dialogue is limited or even minimal, orders are barked out. Death is constantly present. To use the words of critic Penelope Houston, "Unmistakably, we are in Jancsó country."

The Round-Up is remembered for many aspects but most of all for its stunning visual qualities. The mood is set with the opening shots. There is a low, totally flat horizon of featureless terrain on which groups of people can be seen in the distance. Almost immediately horse riders burst into the frame from the left and right, they circle the people who are on foot and exit on the left hand side of the frame only to reappear again traversing the frame briefly as they return to wherever they came from. It is clear, as they approach the camera, that the people are prisoners. The shot is 33 seconds long, a trifle in comparison to Jancsó's later exploitation of the long take, but it encapsulates many of the elements which make up his style in this film; an expansive use of space, long shots, movement within the frame and multiple layering of the action. Time and again Jancsó uses not only the full spread of the widescreen format but the off-screen space as well. There is almost always a sense that something is happening off-screen as the action moves back and forth across the frame, out of the frame and back again.

John Cunningham’s’ complete Essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the Booklet of the DVD release.

Disc Info

The Round-Up Boxshot

Hungary 1965
Length / Main Feature: 87 minutes
Length / Special feature: 20 minutes
Language: Hungarian
Subtitles: English On/Off
OAR: 2.35:1 16x9 Enhanced
Black & White PAL
Sound: Original mono (restored)
RRP: £12.99
Release Date: 17th March 2008
Second Run DVD 029


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