03/30/2005 12:00 AM |

Nimród Antal’s Kontroll is a claustrophobic psycho-thriller set entirely in the labyrinthine confines of Budapest’s subway. It’s a cynically tinged portrait of a motley band of ticket inspectors wallowing in cultural and personal torpor. To escape their boredom these put-upon public servants of a Byzantine state apparatus compete in arbitrary tests of manhood or engage in dead-letter flirtations. Trapped in a position of subservient authority they’re scorned by superiors and dismissed by all sectors of Hungarian society.

And as the characters toil under the harsh fluorescent glare, a mysterious hooded figure pushes passengers into the path of oncoming trains like a leather-clad grim reaper. Bulcsú, their unofficial leader, has foregone a potentially bright future for the perpetual twilight of obscurity until a chance encounter with a girl smiling beatifically from under a fuzzy bear suit. The images and truths Antal mines from the depths of this setting are often arresting. And in these dark spaces where people hide and secrets are hidden, a bruised humanity emerges.