György Vidovszky And yet the earth moves

Ildikó Enyedi: Simon Magus

Péter Andorai (Simon Magus)
Péter Andorai
(Simon Magus)
60 KByte

Ildikó Enyedi is undoubtedly one of the most exciting Hungarian directors. Her films - even the less successful ones - talk to the audience with embarrassing purity and power, and yet these films are often accused of being incomprehensible. Her plots are cosmic and ordinary at the same time, while the approach to the chosen themes is characterised by the strange mixture of poetry and playfulness. Despite the success of her first feature film My 20th Century in Cannes, it had not become a cultic movie until only several years later in Hungary: the reviews written with praise and cautious delight are today looked upon from a different angle; the film has been raised high to the level of ideals, serving as a reference inside and outside Enyedi's career. My 20th Century is indisputably the most significant film of the past decades: we have learnt not only to love but also to understand it. That is why the devotees of the film are longing for another miracle so impatiently. The perfection and harmony which began with this film and which are seeking new forms for themselves in her later works would definitely be worth writing further pages about again and again. Unfortunately, the public hardly knows the two "pearls" which Enyedi made as "by-products": Winter Campaign and a film which made use of archive Film Factory recordings Enyedi re-edited and re-defined. Both of them demonstrate the irony full of love, as well as the humour and lyre so deliberating in cathartic moments, which may derive from the mysterious experience of how Ildikó Enyedi sees the suppositions of the human intellect concerning infinity and finitude in the equality and eternity of the participants of the sensual world. In her "visions" penguins wearing tails are trying to escape with the hunted soldiers of the Don-bend, who are sauntering like tiny, erasable individuals, while in the meantime they are looking for answers to the most fundamental questions of the universe. The archive recordings are unquestionable and unequivocal documents at the same time, the revealed torsions of human culture, clues in the inter-galactic maze awaiting solution and explanation. Simon Magus has taken several years to complete and mature. The motif of the film may have been trying to find the best tools of sensual expression for decades. During this period the history of Simon Magus has transformed and transposed, shifting both in time and place. And it has finally been born. It is not aiming to find itself any more. It has become a film, which for the first time in so many years stirred a dispute among the audience; a film which has to be seen and known and which has made everyone express their opinion.

Simon Magus is an apocryphal story: the heroes are hiding behind the masks of Biblical figures and even the mystical event in the focus is following the motives in the rivalry of the ancient figures of Simon and Peter. Yet, it is not the knowledge or the experience which leads us towards the essence of the film. Enyedi's films are always deeply embedded in the cultural environment, their system of allusions is rich and original, just like in Simon Magus. The film, however, takes a rather broadminded approach to historic events or personalities, as if she trusted her own imagination more than the requirements of "reality". This is exactly the never-ending playfulness which is made up of the mixture of fantastic and bizarre elements, and the products of which deal with a universal material, with a synchretic or if you wish, post-modern liberty. In Enyedi's film, roles may be exchanged: the precursors of Peter and Simon were in fact confused - triggering a certain misunderstanding and revulsion in believers and church circles: Simon has become a real wizard, while Peter a talented juggler. Nevertheless, we can interpret the personality of Simon as someone struggling for the futility of miracles in his own era. Ildikó Enyedi liberates and re-defines all that we call civilisation in the scant reality of ordinary days. The visible and the depictable are always accompanied with the invisible and the undepictable. Enyedi is never satisfied with the passing empathy devoted to the semblance of reality, but with a decisive desire she creates what her artistic imagination possesses in reality. The belief that could be called gnostic, esoteric or post-modern - but is indeed superfluous. Simon arrives in Paris - of course, not by air (levitation) -, the train finds its destination slowly, persistently and almost accidentally. The reason for his arrival is almost of secondary importance: investigation in a police case and one hundred-thousand French Franks. For him it does not make any difference. Everything immediately becomes meaningful, as he is stepping off the train: he sees the girl, his accidental destination. A miracle - if you like - to which he answers with another miracle: he makes the boy quarrelling with the girl show some respect. Following the steps of the girl freely, Simon books into a hotel on his own, but as a magus he has to accept the hotel abounding in journalists, and instead of walking, has to be satisfied with the police car.

No wonder that he makes use of the sweet pleasure of loneliness and passes the time by taking a little nap on the site of the crime. Simon reacts to everybody and everything unpredictably: his mysteriousness, however, only lasts until somebody finally understands him. The girl also accuses him of mysteriousness, when their one-sided "dialogue" in the café flows into silence. Naturally, Simon requires his payment in cash in advance and receives it only after carefully counting it - with his behaviour, he is making fun of the sanctimoniousness of the material world. But it does not matter either: he is even willing to beg for the taxi fare, if he needs to. There is no human reason to his actions; getting out of the circle of wistful looks, he becomes an outlaw with incredible simplicity. His miraculous talent is to be measured not by serving heroism, but by the creation of harmony hardly recognisable. He gives from his "leftovers", the boundaries of his own limits are becoming blurred, the source is about to dry out. His self-appointed student cannot really conceive why it is so impossible and superfluous to transfer anything of what Simon knows. People are interested in Simon, the magus, only from the miracle's point of view. He is one of the most original navvies of everyday mystery, who does not believe at all that it makes any sense this way. Simon is longing for the taste of coffee or wine more than magic or the faith through miracles. His rivalry with Peter is not built upon their power or knowledge; Simon just wants to disappear from the world in an impressive and miraculous way. He returns to the girl in secret. He set himself free; and he did not only offer his environment the promise of momentary freedom, but indeed liberated it. His influence on the people around him (the interpreter, his "student" Paul and the girl Jeanne) is hardly visible. But they all begin to believe in themselves as he wakes up the desire in them for life's tiny, but ever more important details. The "Master" teaches without spoken words, while trying to escape from his environment. Simon is not driven by anything, but the urge to see Jeanne, who does not even know who is hiding under the big black coat. The internal dichotomy, which would make him so uncertain, has ceased to struggle within Simon: he lets the world have the delusive magic, the wish to learn piled upon the miracle of magic. Simon Magus is the film of this final phase, or as Enyedi put it: the phase of farewell. In it she tells a story describing her own way. It is a personal film, so we should not be looking for the masters, magis have been gone for some time.

But here we are, with our ordinary, everyday lives. In the closing scene of My 20th Century there is a sentence, which might sound a little ironic looking back at the film after a long period of time: "Wonderful is the world that God created, and wonderful is the man that has just learnt how to shape it." In this film Enyedi did not seek the individual forms of visual and dramaturgic expression, as she had done in her previous works. Instead, she was striving to concentrate more on clear and low-key story-telling. The troubled first scenes may refer to this effort: the creator does not have a reserved place in revealing the plot, the creator is also scrambling in the crowd of photographers. We will never know what really is inside the mind of the heroes, inner monologues have gone, we cannot overhear what trees and animals are talking about. If you like, there is nothing mystical in this film, being extremely simplified. Trivial situations are elevated, from among which the café-scene is undoubtedly the most memorable - not only for spectators, but for the heroes as well. The burial scene looks rather "devilish" only in Peter's computer simulation. The way Simon prepares for the event is rather lyrical. That is why we fail to find any mystical element in the scene with the moving soil at the end of the film, it just looks a little naive. Naturally, Simon does not die, and he will surely go to the rendezvous, as we can clearly make it out on the face of the girl. So the film bears the simplicity its hero suggests. A true, beautiful and important film has been born, although the atmosphere of free playfulness, for which we loved Enyedi's films has somewhat transformed. Intimacy has dissolved in the cheerful moments of contemplation.

Julie Delarme (Jeanne)
Julie Delarme
37 KByte


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