Katalin Varga

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 March, 2010, 12:00am

Katalin Varga
Hilda Peter, Tibor Palffy, Norbert Tanko
Director: Peter Strickland

The story behind Katalin Varga is legendary - Peter Strickland made his first Hungarian-language feature film using an inheritance from an uncle, ran out of money after shooting wrapped up and left the footage idling for years as he scavenged for post-production funds while doing desk jobs at home in England then in Hungary.

To dwell on those tales, however, is to do the film a major disservice: Katalin Varga certainly didn't secure critical acclaim (or a Silver Bear award at last year's Berlin Film Festival) because of Strickland's production pains - the thriller captivates the viewer at every turn, its visual and sonic textures revealing a confident and capable filmmaker at work.

Giving the film its title is its protagonist, a woman (Hilda Peter) who is banished from her village in Transylvania, Romania, for her past, for which her husband calls her a whore. Katalin and her son Orban (Norbert Tanko) embark on a long journey to find the men whose misdeeds left her life in tatters.

Death is never far away, but the film's gothic horror lies in the characters' confrontation with their past rather than explicit gore; the fear is made palpable through Strickland's effective mise-en-scene; cinematography by Mark Gyori, who portrays vividly both lush plains and sinister forests; and a sound design comprising natural noises (courtesy of Gyorgy Kovacs, Gabor Erdelyi and Tamas Szekely) and an eerie electronic score by electro-noise musicians Geoffrey Cox and Steven Stapleton (of Nurse with Wound fame). Katalin Varga is a mesmerising piece that, hopefully, heralds the emergence of a steady career for one of the brightest young lights of British cinema.

Extras: running commentaries; making-of featurettes; interviews; deleted scenes.