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France 2004
Directed by
Nimród Antal
105 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
4 stars

Kontroll

Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi) works in the Budapest Metro as part of a huge undercover network of ticket inspectors. He lives, works and sleeps in the underground trying to escape his former life above ground. Meanwhile, a sinister hooded figure is pushing passengers in front of moving trains and as the body count rises and accusations fly the pressures on the ticket inspectors drives them to boiling point and beyond.

Kontroll is a directorial tour-de-force and an astounding piece of work for a directorial debut. Nimród Antal has created an oppressive, claustrophobic subterranean world unlike any other. The visuals are beautifully rendered; every image suggesting such a miasma that you can almost smell the sewage. The cinematography is exceptional, managing to make the repetitive scenery of the underground look other-worldly and ethereal in every frame. The fact that it was shot on location in the Budapest Metro won't entice you to use the transport system next time you're in town despite the fact the film begins with a cute spoken disclaimer by a Metro worker.

The fascinating thing about the film is the way it refuses in every way to play to genre conventions. It begins like a dark moody horror film but after the first couple of murders the film turns into an amusing look into the strange lives of the inspectors. The characterisations are extraordinary; at first glance the motley crew look like a bunch of clichéd oddballs but by the end of the film you are completely drawn into their neon-lit world. It isn't until the hooded menace kills again that the horror aspects return but once again viewers expectations are shattered. The possible duality of the characters will leave the viewer guessing what has happened and the arrival of the bear-suit-clad angel is a nice touch. That's what makes Kontroll so enthralling, every facet of the film is unpredictable, no one acts as you would expect. The director is quite happy to leave questions unanswered, He expects the audience to work for their enjoyment, to figure out the possibilities of what we are watching.

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