Master of Arts, Faculty of Humanities
University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
Commentary on “Representation of Gender in Hungarian Movies in the First Decade of the 21st Century”
The essay entitled “Representation of Gender in Hungarian Movies in the First Decade of the 21st Century” aimed to compare the movies made during Communism with those of the 21st century. It also compared movies produced in Hungary and Romania in the new millennium.
In general, movies produced under Communism were used as propaganda to present the values and virtues of Communism, offering an idealized idea of men and women. Contrary to films nowadays, racial and sexual diversity were taboo.
Lilla László also focuses her attention on Romanian movies, making a comparison between Romanian and Hungarian movies. Some of the movies used for her analysis are: “Fresh Air” (Friss levegő, 2006) and “Girls” (Lányok, 2007) – which are Hungarian – “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” (4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile, 2007) and “Weekend with my Mother” (Weekend cu mama, 2009) – which are Romanian.
“Fresh Air” tells the story of two women, Viola and her daughter, Angéla, who live together in a small flat in Budapest. Viola works as a toilets supervisor in a metro station. At night she attends singles events where she meets bachelors who don’t interest her. 17-year-old Angéla attends a sewing school and dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer. Viola is continuously using air fresheners, while Angéla keeps opening the windows of their flat. The unique family moment is watching a favourite weekly television show, sitting silently on the sofa. The women are apparently alienated. Although it appears that they are not able to communicate with or understand each other, they share deep-seated emotional bonds. After Angéla’s hitchhiking trip and Viola’s unfortunate encounter at work, the two women become closer to each other, showing a kind of love and respect.
The protagonists of “Girls” are Dia and Anita, two teenagers – who spend their time in the playgrounds, hanging out without a purpose and partying instead of going to school. In the evenings they are together with taxi drivers – who have a double life: as taxi drivers and as fathers/husbands. Dia falls in love with a boy who breaks up with her. Angry with the world, the two girls want to go far away, perhaps Switzerland, but they don’t have a car. They therefore decide to take one from the taxi drivers. There is a theme of lack of rules and control; a life in which everything is permitted. Anita finds a way to respect herself as a woman, while Dia doesn’t hesitate to sell herself. No other way is possible, she contents, and there is no hope in this reality.
“Weekend with my Mother” speaks about Luiza, a Romanian woman, who returns to Romania after 15 years, when she headed to Spain and left her 3-year-old daughter Cristina in the care of relatives. She stays in Romania for one weekend in order to meet Cristina. Luiza learns some shocking truths that were kept hidden from her. Cristina ran away from home, both she and her boyfriend are drug addicts and she has a 2-year-old girl who is living in an orphanage. Overwhelmed by guilt, Luiza attempts to save her daughter during this weekend. Many women left Romania and still leave their country to find a job abroad, especially in Spain and Italy, and most cannot bring their children with them. These women are very strong and open minded. They think about what is good for their children and try to do everything in their power to assure their children’s education and future opportunities.
“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” is set in 1987 and tells the story of two girls, Găbiţa and Otilia, who are roommates in the university dormitory. Găbiţa becomes pregnant and with the help of Otilia manages to arrange an illegal abortion in a hotel room. Under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu, abortion was seen has a mechanism of demographic policy. In Romania the law concerning prohibition of abortion was issued in 1966, when the birth rate was reaching very low levels. Women ware both housekeepers and workers. It became very difficult for them to raise their children, so they preferred to have one or maximum two children. Considering the State’s need of a labour force, the Decree 770/1966 was adopted in 1967, by which abortion and the usage of contraceptive means were prohibited. The children born in that period are called decreţei, in memory of the decree.
In her analysis of these movies Lilla László presents traditional roles and taboos that are currently forgotten, the new generation’s carefree approach to sex and sexuality and the lack of communication between parents and children. The topics and the problems raised in the movies have always been part of reality, but hidden by Communist rule, in the same way that they were hidden under the dictatorship in West Europe (e.g. in Italy). If present day cinema deals with these themes, it may also be beneficial. In fact, it can help us better understand and accept “diversity”, face other aspects of life and try to find the way to help the people close to us.