Some people seem not to have liked this film. After seeing it myself I read a strange half-sentence by a renowned film critic, writing for an even more renowned international newspaper (I will not give away the name of the person in question, for his own benefit!), declaring that "Just the Wind" was accompanied by an unbearable sluggishness and confusion.
Such apparent misjudgment made me speechless at first, but then I simply recalled my own viewing experience. Although very far away from the screen, sitting just below the roof of the sumptuous Berlinale-Palast, there was never a second in which I was not absorbed by the action of the movie, feeling actually very close to the characters and by no means indifferent or confused. After the screening was over I remember walking through the streets without a purpose, just lost in thoughts and overpowered by a feeling of extreme sorrow for the fate of the protagonists and sheer helplessness against the ugly faces of racism.
"Csak a szél" is a very quiet drama that slowly turns into a shout. In a little Hungarian village the last day in the life of a small Romani family is shown, a family that only consists of the mother, her two children and the grandfather, because the head of the family has already emigrated to Canada, a place to which the others will follow as soon as they have raised the money. They all try to live a fairly normal and discrete life, at least the mother who is working as a cleaner in two different job places, and the girl who is conscientious about the necessity of attending school, whereas her younger brother is playing truant and prefers to play video games in the house of a neighborhood family or simply to roam about in the forest.
The film was inspired by an authentic case of racist attacks in Hungary which took place a few years ago and in which eight people lost their lives in less than a year. But it tells a fictitious story in which the artist decides to concentrate on the chronological events, however unimportant they may seem, of an entire day, from dawn to dusk. Soon we learn that a neighbor family has been killed, without apparent motive, just for racist reasons. The authors of the crime have not been found, and the police is not much of a help either. On the contrary, in the one scene where police agents are present, we witness that at least one of them is a racist himself. It is therefore not surprising that the whole place is dominated by a pogrom-like atmosphere manifesting itself by ugly little incidents, such as when a bus driver obliges a Romani member to run a few extra metres because he did not stop the bus at the exact spot where she was waiting.
However, there is but a quiet rebellion against these visible signs of discrimination. It may be a climate of lingering fear that impedes action. For example, when a girl is raped on the school toilet, Anna, the Romani girl, will do nothing but silently steal away without denouncing anybody. Has she been raped too? When a little later her father asks her in a video internet conversation whether she is pregnant, she leaves the question unanswered and can only speak about the fear that has invaded her.
In another key scene a suspicious looking black car is slowly following Rio, the boy. Rio halts and tries to hide behind some bushes unable to do anything else. His violent reaction comes out a little later when he is in the deep forest, running alone, cutting himself an aisle through the undergrowth. It seems to be something like a shout of despair, an outcry against the overwhelming menace, which sadly can only be heard by the film audience.
As in Bence Fliegauf's previous film "Womb" nature symbolism plays an important role. But instead of the boundless sea we find here the forest as an area of limitation for the human spirit of which to break free seems to be an almost impossible task. And nobody on this planet should claim that he does not consider himself concerned. Speaking of Germany, there is a recent series of neo-Nazi attacks against Turkish citizens whose swift clearing up was apparently impeded because of sheer negligence of the authorities so that Chancellor Angela Merkel had to publicly apologize.
But then, of course, there is also the wind. When the family members are huddling against each other in bed, at the end of the day and some noise is heard outside, the mother tries to comfort them by saying that it is "just the wind". And me in my cinema seat have got the strange thought that if the film ended just now, everything would be just fine. But the world is not like that, not even in the twenty-first century, in which the wind of racism is still around, arbitrary and blind, destroying the good nature of life and all the ambitious dreams that go with it.
News quickly spreads of the murder of a Romany family in a Hungarian village. The perpetrators have escaped and nobody claims to know who might have committed the crime. For another Romany family living close by, the murder only serves to confirm their latent, carefully repressed fears. Far away in Canada the head of the family decides that his wife, children and their grandfather must join him as soon as possible. Living in fear of the racist terror that surrounds them and feeling abandoned by the silent majority, the family tries to get through the day after the attack. By nightfall when darkness descends on the village the family pushes the beds closer together than usual. Yet their hope of escaping the madness proves illusory. Based on an actual series of killings in Hungary that claimed the lives of eight people in less than a year, Bence Fliegauf portrays the pogrom-like atmosphere which breeds such violence. The camera stays hot on the heels of the protagonists, making the breathless escalation of events physically palpable.
October 09, 2022 at 04:25 AM