Ethno-realist docu-fiction and Hungary’s forgotten female film pioneer

Gergely, Gabor (2014) Ethno-realist docu-fiction and Hungary’s forgotten female film pioneer. In: Doing Women's Film and Television History Conference 2014, 10-12 April, 2014, University of East Anglia.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


Klára Riedl’s Isten tenyerén/In the Palm of God (1939) is an ethno-realist docu-fiction with an almost irresistible charm. This is largely due to its central figure, Kati, and the captivating performance by the non-actor who played her (the cast list survives, but without indication of who played who). The story centres around Kati’s love for a dashing cadet she met in Budapest, her difficult task, upon return to her village, of handling two suitors she doesn’t love, and her defiance of paternal authority and the scorn of the entire community.

In the Palm of God was released when the 21% drop in domestic output that followed Hungary’s ban on Jewish involvement in filmmaking put products of scant marketability on cinema screens around the country. That it cleared the many hurdles films faced before approval for release was likely due to the involvement of many prominent far right figures, including producer Imre Huzly, advisor to the director István György, editor Zoltán Farkas and location manager István Lázár, Jr.

The film has clear ambitions of ethnographic realism. This sits uneasily with the longish insert of an ode to the ‘Hortobágy’, an iconic region of Hungary, whose swape-wells, pony-mounted cattle-herders and nine-arch bridge were key features of the period’s sanctioned images of Hungarian culture and tradition. The film’s contrasting mix of qualities, its foregrounding of a feminine experience and a feminine viewpoint, the use of genuine non-actors and real locations, and the obvious signs of interference, reshoots and recuts make it one of the most fascinating films of Hungary’s turbulent 1930s. This paper traces the story of this remarkable film.

Keywords:Hungary, Cinema, Women's Film History, Klára Riedl
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
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ID Code:29926
Deposited On:06 Dec 2017 12:37

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