Tüzoltó utca 25 (25 Fireman's Street) (2004)
Director: István Szabó.
Starring: Lucyna Winnicka (Maria), Margit Makay (mother of Maria), Károly Kovács (father of Maria), András Bálint (Andris), Erzsi Pásztor (Erzsi), Edit Lenkey (Baba), Janos Jani (husband of Baba), Zoltán Zelk (Hackl).
Hungary and trouble with Nazis and the Communists
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
In Hungary they are demolishing buildings. The building that is next to be demolished has the occupants very concerned. Many of them find it hard to sleep and this contributes to a number of them having nightmares and/or having invasive hurtful memories brought back into their head. It is a hot night and this also adds to the sleeplessness in the building. There are a lot of confusing scenes in the film and this is the result of constantly using dream sequences. And it's difficult at times to tell whether you are in the German occupation phase, the Soviet phase or in the present setting of the film.
A young man named Andris starts kissing an older woman. She asks him why is it that so many younger men are attracted to her. A pretty young girl in the building likes Andris, but he barely notices her. Andris also has other love interests. He walks in on Kriszta taking a shower. He compliments her on her beauty and then says: "Sleep with me, Kriszta." Kriszta's mom comes into the room and she asks agreement from Andris that her daughter is very beautiful. She gets no argument from him. Later Kriszta tells Andris that she will be his lover or his wife.
A more mature, but pretty woman named Maria seems to have many suitors. This must be a dream for she has knowing premonitions of their futures, which, given the time of war, are often not good ones. She often mentions to people that they will die on the Soviet front or elsewhere. The daughter of the clock and watch repairman throws herself to her death off one of the high balconies onto the enclosed courtyard. A man dreams of being alone without his family and another dreams of caring for a lot of crying babies. This man wakes a another man having a bad dream of being deserted in the snow and cold by those who should have rescued him.
Mrs. Gaskoy cannot sleep, so she gets up. There is a dance sequence in a barn-looking building with quite a few couples from the apartment building dancing. Andris tells the prone and naked Kriszta that she is beautiful. She says that she sunbathes on the roof and has no tan lines.
Maria gets married to Dr. Balo. She receives a lot of presents from the guests.
A man from the Hungarian army shows the residents of the apartment building how to use their gas masks. On the street Hungarian military men practice the crawl. Some of the male apartment residents are put to work digging a trench in the street. They are getting ready for the German assault.
One of Maria's former suitors says good-bye to her. With the Germans coming toward Hungary, he has decided to leave for Australia. He suggests that she get away too. He then kisses her on the lips good-bye and leaves.
The German occupation has started. A number of older men are gathered together in the street by men of the Hungarian army. They are then marched away. Maria in a truck filled with freshly baked bread passes by the marching men. She is to deliver the bread to the Germans. Her husband jumps on the back of the truck and starts throwing bread loaves to the marchers.
One of the women in Maria's family starts collecting the jewelry from the family members. She says: "Don't wear anything you can be killed for." It looks and sounds like the family is expecting trouble. A messenger arrives to tell Maria's family that they have within the hour to evacuate their apartment. Maria goes to various apartments and asks the residents if they will keep for her various of her possessions, such as chairs and books. Count Mady receives the chairs. Maria tells him that if they don't come back, he is free to dispose of the chairs in any way he desires. Maria tells her doctor husband that she wants to take cyanide. But he says he doesn't have any cyanide.
Many residents of the apartment building have to go to be examined by doctors. Maria is one of those who goes to be examined. The women are told to undress and then one at a time are examined. It is a very humiliating experience for the women and when it is Maria's turn she makes sure they know about it. She yells at the examiner and her associates. Later everyone has to go through disinfection. The women are packed into a holding area with few creature comforts.
Mrs. Gaskoy awakens to the sounds of her brother-in-law Osci searching for his violin. The police raid the apartment. They also examine Mrs. Gaskoy's bakery. Her brother-in-law Ocsi has received his draft notice. Mrs. Gaskoy has provided shelter for quite a few people afraid of being detained and harmed. Indeed, her hiding places fill up fast and she has to start turning away people seeking shelter and she hates doing this. The police arrive again and they search the bakery. Mrs. Gaskoy dreams of the time when people signed statements on her behalf saying that she had provided them with shelter during the German occupation.
There is an air raid and the apartment residents head underground. Mrs. Gaskoy is both mentally and physically exhausted. She says she wants peace -- at least one day without a headache.
Luckily for Maria, she is released, as she is the wife of Dr. Balo. She is then reunited with her husband.
The Russians are close. On the street a man has been hanged. Maria's father is dying. Maria finds the woman that worked with the Germans and slaps her quite a few times. Her husband falls ill and shortly dies. The women in the building all seem to be telling her to marry again.
Resident Eta's father tries to teach his two daughters how to repair watches and clocks. But the women have no patience for this, since they see it as an unnecessary skill to have.
The War in Europe is over. Now people are coming to Mrs. Gaskoy to have her sign their statements that they did something noble to resist the German occupation. Even the female collaborator with the Germans has Mrs. Gaskoy sing a statement. There is a large festival in the streets. Lots and lots of Hungarian flags are marched up and down the street outside the apartment building.
Maria wants her belongings back from the other apartment residents and they return them without any problems. Eta tells Maria that she is leaving for America. She adds that Maria should wed.
A female communist government worker comes to talk with Mrs. Gaskoy. She delivers the news that her bakery will be nationalized. Osci returns from the war. Her brother Bandi returns from Australia bringing his sisters presents. Then one day the communist government worker comes to Mrs. Gaskoy asking her to provide her with shelter from the authorities.
At a tenants' meeting Mrs. Gaskoy is elected as chairperson. Members of the Young Pioneers (I suppose) rummage through the apartments taking things. One boy drags a picture of Jesus Christ along the ground.
Now Count Mady, who once stored Maria's chairs, has to leave. And now he asks Maria to store some of his belongings. She agrees to repay the favor. Later Maria gets re-married. And her mother dies.
A lot of furniture has either been placed in the courtyard or thrown out onto the courtyard. Andris comes into the courtyard. He knocks down a man -- a man, he tells his grandfather, who would have killed him in different times.
The watch and clock repairman, with one daughter dead of suicide and the other gone to America, starts eating a large piece of glass from the broken window.
Andris calls in the ragman to buy things from his family. The ragman takes items he can sell right off the backs of the people. He even takes one of the women's snow boots because he can sale them easily. Andris even sells to him the picture frame around a family portrait.
The apartment residents walk to the other side of the street from the building at 25 Fireman Street to watch as their building is demolished.
A confusing movie and so I don't think you could really call it a "good" movie. Maybe "pretty good" would be a better rating. The movie has too many characters and it is hard to keep them straight. There are too many stories being told here. And the chronology of the stories jumps around just to confuse us more. Moreover, many of the scenes are dream sequences or rather nightmare sequences to add to the confusion. And since you are so confused it is hard to identify with or feel sympathy for the characters. My wife did not like it at all. I felt better about the movie. The comparison of the nightmare of rule by the Nazis to the nightmare of Communist rule over Hungary is interesting. If you like puzzles to sort out, this would be a real treat for you.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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