Eszter Fazekas


PSYCHE I-III. (Psyche and Narcissus, Narcissus and Psyche) 1980

d: Bódy Gábor, novel: Weöres Sándor, w: Bódy Gábor, Csaplár Vilmos, ph: Hildebrand István, m: Vidovszky László, art d: Bachmann Gábor, c: Mialkovszky Erzsébet, Koppány Gizella.
Patricia Adriani (Psyché - Lónyai Erzsébet), Udo Kier (Nárcisz -Ungvárnémeti Tóth László), Cserhalmi György (Baron Maximilian von Zedlitz)
Hunnia Filmstúdió, colour, in Hungarian, 310 minutes.

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The film is based on Sándor Weöres's verse novel entitled Psyche. It is a "fantastic", romantic vision of love. Weöres's literary invention was to link the imaginary story by the enlightened Gypsy poet, Countess Erzsébet Lónyai, dreamt to take place at the end of the 18th century, with the real-life figure of László Ungvárnémeti Tóth, the short-lived 19th century scientist, poet and dramatist, whose life-work was fragmented and whose fate was tragic. The story encompasses over one hundred years, whirling around their passionate and unfulfilled love, the motif of woman's awakening to consciousness, her search for an identity and her revolt. The physical and spiritual sufferings of the syphilitic Ungvárnémeti-Narcissus thrust him to an art of decadence, while the life of the nymphomaniac Lónyai-Psyche, by the side of the dreamer Baron Zedlitz, is the drama of "misplaced heads" and of the state of not being understood.

Bódy tells this story of mythological content and time with a special dramaturgy, embedded in unusual visions. His heroes do not age, not even one and a half century leaves its marks upon them. The visual world stylizes the fantastic in the history of ideas. The scenes with their colours washed together, the expressionalisically overdriven stage settings attempt to visually capture the spirit and the battle of History and the Soul.

PSYCHÉ, this unforgettable masterpiece of Hungarian film, is a symbol of its age not only because of its grandeur and its capacity of being the initiating encyclopaedia of the culture of the post-modern, but even because of its fate and afterlife. Besides Andrei Tarkovski, the holy "Stalker" of Soviet film often mentioned as Gábor Bódy's ideal, there is no other example of such a tight intertwining of work and life.

In Psyche 's 120 year long love-story we see how pure idea and the searching spirit become satanic magic in the syphilitic passion of self-loving narcissism, how the principle of freedom, trying instinctively to realise itself, is tramped down by the all-devouring and all-conquering reality of history, politics and private life....

Bódy, the "burning angel" ran for long to leave film behind, to leave "life written on quickly burning paper" behind, in order to come to the darkness of night in his last great film raising the incident to diabolic law, Night Song of a Dog.

11 years ago he died in the belief that his greatest work, a film organising the conflicts of life and death, body and spirit, freedom and reality, into a large, three-part mythical fresco, has been eliminated by the Hungarian "reform-communist" cultural government which supported Jaruzelski's martial law. The second part of this film extending Weöres's fairy-tale journey in time from the age of rococo to the end of World War I - which Bódy even originally shot for television, - takes place during the Hungarian Reform Era and Freedom Fighting. The supporters of the Pozsony Parliament take a stand for helping the cause of Polish freedom and independence.... - It was perhaps because of this historical analogy that one for 10 years was unable to find the only complete copy of Psyche in the Hungarian Television. Then, in December 1990, it was suddenly found in a matter of a few minutes, as a result of the desperate perseverance of screen-play writer Vilmos Csaplár. It was then that the public had first access to Gábor Bódy's original idea.

But even the reproducibility of the most spectacular Hungarian film was damaged by the series-production of the four-hour domestic and the two-hour export-versions. Zealous people cut up the original negative to produce a shortest version meant for abroad, thus over two thirds of the original material was destroyed.

Now, that the Hungarian Film Institute, - thanks to the "Past and Present of Hungarian Film Foundation", "Picture-Shadow" supporting the reviving of all of Gábor Bódy's works, KODAK and MOKÉP, - has been given the chance to restore Bódy's original dream, one was able to reconstruct the second part, which at the time of its creation was obliterated by censorship and which in its perfect original clearness and visual excellence is simply called "the Polish version". The first and third parts of the film, i.e. the traded movie-version, turned out to be softer and grittier, as it was made of MOKÉP's negative. Viola Regéczy, light-setter during the reconstruction, and Éva Beke, technical director of the institute, had to fight a difficult battle with this heterogeneous material. A lilac-coloured veil sat over the first version which in itself was characterised by a dominance of the bluish. The close-up of hands and faces was purple, while the green of the grass was yellow. ... Work was easier where Bódy's-Hildebrand's-Bachmann's design-world, also called "hyper-fictional" and "bio-radical", opens up through lilac-yellow infra coloured filters before our eyes. Thanks to reconstruction, faded scenes which even originally were copied on ethereal negative, such as the dark-covered glass-blue of the hospital of the polypus-operation, the scenes of night-battles assembled into Baron Zedlitz's and Psyche's historical love-making photographed by holographic technique, the fish-bowl-green bed projected on a sky full of stars with the semen aiming at the centre of the galaxy, became "visible", lending themselves to enjoyment in their full beauty.

Erzsi Báthory, archivator of the film, preserved the content juxtapositions and overlapping of the different versions in a map-like manner. Having examined the beginning and the end of the negative rolls with a magnifying glass, she put together the double borrowed from MOKÉP and the original material. ...

Open your hearts to this re-enchanted, complete Psyche which 16 years ago created a new visual language, admired by hundreds of thousands also in Hungarian cinemas, as it was capable of doing the nearly impossible: this film became the expression of experimental and cultural-philosophical issues while it managed to adhere to the mythical topics, the story of the love-triangle and the aspects of the spectacle demanded by commercial interests. Without this tantalisingly perfect, often attacked "Gesamkunstwerk", i.e. all-art opera, the eclecticism of post-modern culture, e.g. Peter Greeneway's sensually intellectual conceptuality, Ildikó Enyedi's playing with time or the heroic/self-ironic emotionality of Wim Wenders' Paris-Texas, could not be understood today. ..

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photos: Gyula Szóváry

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