My 20th Century
The first feature from Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi – who recently won the Golden Bear for her latest film On Body and Soul – comes to DVD and Blu-ray
Perhaps the most memorable scene in Ildikó Enyedi's debut feature is a playful digression from its main narrative, in which a caged chimpanzee tells the story of his capture. Shown to the viewer in flashback, the anthropomorphic aside is played as pure whimsy, yet stands as perhaps the clearest testament to the director's affinity for the marginalised and oppressed.
My 20th Century takes a tumultuous period in global history – the early 1900s – and bestows great significance upon Enyedi's own demographic by placing Eastern European women at its centre. The film's action revolves around Dora and Lili, orphaned identical twins whose lives have taken on markedly different directions since their separation at an early age. The world they inhabit is being shaped by masculine notions of invention and progress, but the sisters show agency within it.
One is strong but calculatedly subservient, while the other, more modest personality is an impoverished radical. Each represents an ideology with which to approach life in a new age of enlightenment.
This is a movie concerned with dualities: of east and west, wealth and poverty, science and nature, male and female, light and dark, past and future, fact and fiction. If its protagonists aren't fully rounded, they nevertheless embody a sense of choice and possibility, Enyedi hinting at the success, failure and promise (fulfilled or otherwise) which lay ahead for all corners of the world at the start of the a new century.
This new offering from Second Run marks the first time many will have had the chance to see the film since its original 1989 release. The years have been kind to its feminist message and striking visuals evocative of early cinema, the latter bolstered here by an immaculate transfer. Bonus features include footage of an interview with the director and a booklet containing an illuminating, academically rigorous essay on the feature.