23 January 2007 | karhukissa
Allegorical, in case you haven't recognized
We have all (or at least I have) seen tons of stories about kids growing up in an orphanage, without the loving care of parents. You can watch this film as if it were another one of these stories. But it isn't.
Though I suspect at least part of the story is autobiographical, Arpad Sopsits manages to turn it into an allegory of dictatorship. Though the boys are completely cut off from the outside world (they do not communicate with anyone from there), the atmosphere pretty much models the general feeling in Hungary after the cruel suppression of the 1956 revolution. Religion is severely punished, humiliation takes place every day, children are made to spy on one another. Nyitrai, the only humane teacher, is known to have been in prison after the revolution, and now finds escape in astronomy and music. The head of the institution is himself scared stiff of the State which might find out if he gets too lenient. When a sadistic teacher is criticized for his methods, he replies: "I'm cruel to them because the world is cruel, too. I'm just preparing them for what to expect outside." The possibility of an idealized, innocent childhood is lost for these children.
My parents grew up at the same time as the film takes place. They never encountered such cruelty; nevertheless, I think the film is entirely realistic. Some comments say they can't really identify with this story as it takes place in a very different country. But think it over: does it? I think any dictatorship, big or small, operates the same way. And it is usually invisible to people not directly affected by it.