A dark and dynamic ride through Budapest’s labyrinthine subway system, “Kontroll” stylishly careens through genres, thriller, drama, comedy, horror and romance, at the breakneck pace of a runaway train. Life has turned upside-down for brooding Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi), a ticket inspector who patrols the platforms and trains of the city’s underground network with a motley crew of colleagues. Bulcsú has forged a series of ‘relationships’ with other long-term denizens of this neon-lit world; the serial fare-dodger, the shadowy serial-killer, the veteran whose seen it all before, and the mysterious, beautiful woman who rides the rails in a bear suit. The most successful Hungarian film of 2003 and selected for the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, Kontroll”, with its echoes of “Run Lola Run”, is a fascinating tour of an unseen world and an atmospheric, pulsating search for redemption.
2003 – Certificate: 15 – Hungarian Film
Rating Details: Strong language and violence
8.0 out of 10
Today I’m being angry about dry pasta. Dry pasta is a total rip-off. By which I mean the price charged for some types is a blatant attempt to feed the insecurity, snobbishness and stupidity of a significant percentage of the population. Normally I buy Ocado (own brand) Fusilli pasta at 113p / kg. But on a whim, last time I did my ‘big shopping’ I also bought a bag of Giuseppe Cocco Fusilli Pasta at 598p / kg, to find out what’s so good about it. That’s over 5 times more expensive! The latter comes in a smaller bag and has fancy Italian writing all over the packet (that could be telling me to go fuck myself for all I know), but beyond that it isn’t any different. It looks and tastes just like the cheap stuff. People are soft in the head if they’re stupid enough to buy the expensive version and think it’s superior in some way. Listen up. It’s exactly the same! Whether you like it or not, it’s only bought by the dull-witted and easy led, who actually believe it’s better; or food snobs who’re clearly lacking something in their lives that impressing themselves, their family and friends with grossly overpriced food, helps them to cover up. It you really want to impress your peers, buy the cheap stuff and donate the £60 or so you’ll save each year to charity. And while I’m on the subject, why is it that if you don’t buy spirals, spaghetti or tubes, the price of pasta also goes up hugely? Another rip-off! In fact, the only thing more ridiculous is bottled water. Being a Brit who lives on a small island, I’m genetically programmed to think just about everywhere else in Europe is basically like one place as it’s joined together, such as Italy and Hungary…
I went to Hungary once. (Yes, it’s hard to believe isn’t it?) I arrived with no local currency and had no idea what the exchange rate was, so for quite a while I based my estimate of prices on the bottle of overpriced Coke I bought from a vending machine at the bus station in Budapest. (Based on this, a bottle of lager was about half the price of Coke.) I never went on the underground there, which now having seen this film I’m quite glad about; the bus was quite traumatic enough. This movie follows the exploits of a scruffy team of five ticket inspectors on the Budapest subway. It starts with an introduction from someone claiming to be from the subway company, explaining why permission was given for the film to be made (entirely underground) and for the company to be depicted in the way it is. I’m not 100% sure if this was serious or just a clever bit of writing. The whole movie has a well developed script and provides plenty of nuanced observations and WTF moments. The subway environment provides a great atmospheric background too, as the action switches quickly between different genera and pacing. Ticket inspectors are depicted as being very low on the ‘food chain’ of careers, with questionable management, rivalry between teams and a general antagonism towards them from the travelling public. A dark comedy (with a bit of romance and horror thrown in), this is a pretty fun, mind-fuck film that uses its setting well. A great film. Enjoy.
Musically it’s not an especially interesting movie as there’s not a lot used, although its scarcity does give it an impact when it does appear.
The trailer’s pretty decent, but I couldn’t find a copy of it with subtitles anywhere on the Internet. There’s a copy on the DVD though.
Recommended for ticket inspectors, tourists, serial killers and fare dodgers.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? For most of this film the ticket inspectors are on the wrong end of abuse from passengers who haven’t got a ticket. In one incident, an especially annoying woman threatens to report one for groping her if he hassles her any more about not having a ticket. So the guy promptly grabs her boobs, much to her horror and embarrassment. Now I’m not condoning this in any way, but somehow she deserved it. Calling someone’s bluff is always badass, if you get away with it.
I was born in London. I lived there for many years. I’ve travelled on the Underground thousands of times; in fact I could probably draw a pretty accurate map of the Tube from memory, with most of the stations marked on it too. Last weekend I went to go to a gig in London, at a venue I know, using a part of the Underground which I also know very well. After making no less than four navigational errors on the Tube (getting on the wrong line, going in the wrong direction, getting off at the wrong station, etc), I decided that no lesser person than God himself was trying to drop a hint that I shouldn’t go. In the end I gave up and decided to come home, convinced that on my journey back I’d be involved in some sort of ‘incident’ that would offer me the chance to become a national hero. A major train crash perhaps, a little old lady being mugged, or a cute kitten stuck up in a tree, that sort of thing.
Ready for action, I stood in the vestibule bit of the train from Paddington Station. (For the thickos amongst you who don’t know what that is, it’s the bit of the train where the carriages are joined together.) Now I was dressed in what I normally wear when I go to see bands, which means just a t-shirt and shirt on top; coats are a pain at gigs, but not wearing one in the winter means you can get bloody cold afterwards. So I was cold; and knowing that I was very likely to be called on to perform some sort of heroic action in the near future, I’d decided not to trap myself in the bowels of a carriage. The train was actually quite full, so I’d have been unlikely to find a spare seat to sit on that didn’t involve me sitting next to someone; and I didn’t want to force myself on anyone in that way and spoil his or her evening; (yes, I’m very self-confident I know). So anyway, there I was, standing by the door. Joining me in my vestibule was an early 20s no-one; let’s call him Puppy Boy. Puppy Boy decided it would be a good idea to open the window, a lot. This was bearable for a few minutes, but once the train got moving it got colder and colder, as the wind howled in through the window at over 100mph and made a bee-line for me. Meanwhile, Puppy Boy just stood there, playing with his stupid little phone, seemingly oblivious to the near absolute-zero, super-cooled air that was blasting into his face and then travelling across the carriage to crush my life force in its icy grasp.
Ever seen a dog in a car that likes to stick its head out of the window? Well now you know where Puppy Boy got his name from. In my hypothermic condition, I started to hallucinate about Puppy Boy sticking his head out of the window and being decapitated by a passing train and wondering where the emergency alarm was, so I could alert the drive to this fact; and considering, in some detail, how much of a mess the headless remains of his body would make on the floor in front of me.
However, revenge is sweet. So along comes the ticket inspector. Like the upstanding, pillar of society, good citizen that I am, I proudly brandished my ticket and Railcard for the gentleman to inspect at his leisure. Then he turned to Puppy Boy. Oh dear, Puppy Boy had ‘forgotten’ to buy himself a ticket. I guess at a huge station like Paddington that has thousands of ticket machines and a massive ticket hall, it just slipped his mind. Yeah, right. I personally think they should arm ticket inspectors and licence them to carry out on-the-spot executions on people who have obviously tried to avoid buying a ticket; and if you can afford a snazzy little phone on which to surf the web and text your equally annoying and boring Coldplay worshipping friends, you can afford a ticket. Anyway, Puppy Boy doesn’t have a ticket, so has to buy one for the full single price, which was more than my return ticket, which also included all my Underground travel too. This didn’t warm me up in the slightest, but it did give me a great deal of satisfaction. When we got to Reading, Puppy Boy got off the train in front of me and I pushed him onto the track into the path of an oncoming train, in payment for making my journey so bloody uncomfortable. No wait, I just imagined that last bit. And please, don’t ask me why didn’t I ask him to close the window; I’m a Brit, we don’t do things like that, we just suffer in silence! Oh, and I wasn’t called on to perform any feats of heroism either, so I’ve no idea why I became so clueless on the Underground.
Right now I’m listening to “My Lady’s Games” by Blyth Power.