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Natural Light

Dénes Nagy

Nagy won the Best Director award at the Berlinale for this remarkable debut, superbly photographed by Tamás Dobos, a profound and disturbing portrayal of the trauma of war.  

“its performances echo the battle-scarred faces of Elem Klimov’s 1985 masterpiece Come and See”

Deep into the Second World War and in the heart of Hungary, whose government has chosen to align itself with the Axis Powers, a small unit of soldiers hunt down any partisan opposition. Amongst them is Corporal István Semetka (Ferenc Szabó). Fatigued, having had no leave for eight months, he barely holds on to the last vestiges of humanity that the brutality and horror of conflict have ground down. The soldiers are loathed by the villagers they encounter, and for good reason in some cases. However, Semetka is ruthless, but he is not cruel. Following the death of his commander, he takes charge, but as opposed to the pro-Nazi forces growing, sterner measures are required, and Semetka realises he has no stomach for the orders that arrive.

Natural Light comprises some extraordinary imagery. But while the film’s aesthetic displays striking visual poetry, its performances echo the battle-scarred faces of Elem Klimov’s 1985 masterpiece Come and See. Like Aleksei Kravchenko’s protagonist in that film, Szabo’s Semetka has seen too much to show emotion. The same can be said of the other characters he encounters, most played by non-professional actors. 

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