In her absurdist debut feature, Hungarian filmmaker Katalin Moldovai takes on the administration of conservative Hungary in her depiction of a high school teacher accused of promoting homosexual values to her students.
In a small Hungarian town, Ana Bauch (Ágnes Krasznahorkai) is a dedicated and liberal-minded literature teacher within the public system. Beloved by her students for her unorthodox and creative approach, she assigns Agnieszka Holland’s 1995 Total Eclipse, depicting the relationship between 19th-century French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, so they can better understand Rimbaud’s poetry. When a conservative father interrupts his son Victor (Soma Sándor) during the screening and hears of the assignment, he reports Ana to the school’s principal (Tünde Skovrán). Ana is accused of misconduct and spreading homosexual propaganda, and when the local media get wind of the brewing scandal, she faces even more scrutiny. In a system within which many have given up, Ana must decide to fight or to flee — perhaps to a restaurant job abroad.
Regardless of the verdict, a good teacher is life-changing, and what Ana instills in her pupils ripples beyond classroom lessons. Touching on education, isolationism, and brain drain — all in the face of rising fascism — writer-director Katalin Moldovai unfolds a bold debut, capturing her nation’s climate (which Ana, unlike her country’s president, doesn’t deny is undergoing an ecological crisis) and directly challenging the regime in which rationality and reason are under attack and freedom of expression — public and private — is actively repressed.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival