Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi) is a metro ticket inspector working in the
underground transit system in Budapest. His job consists of ensuring commuters have paid to ride the train. Simple? Not really. Try to explain an idea of paying for a ride to, say, a pimp accompanied by several ‘working girls’. Or a gypsy. They are not there for paying anything to anybody.
A quirky young woman dressed in a bear suit (Eszter Balla) catches the attention of Bulcsú, and their relationship suggests that he might escape from the drudgery of his subterranean life and finally see sunlight again. But first he needs to find out why passengers are jumping — or being pushed — to their deaths onto the tracks. And then he needs to persuade himself that life up above has something more to offer.
I was recommended this comedy-thriller by a certain Ksanthippe (thank you!) who has studied Hungarian at university. I admit that my knowledge of anything Hungarian is scant so I wanted to improve that and I thought this movie was a perfect choice.
If I had to sum up the movie I’d say it is a cross between Trainspotting, Matrix, Metro directed by Luc Besson, Kafka, and uncountable action comedies shot by Tarantino. It also proves that you don’t need a dark, big forest or a dark big mountain to create a certain atmosphere. An underground system is more than enough, especially as it is frequented by fortunate and unfortunate people and also a friendly owl.
The plot was hardly linear, centered around a crew of colleagues who patrol Budapest metro system and check tickets. They compete with other, similar groups, they fight with unruly passengers, they have to overcome their own weaknesses and avoid the attention of their bosses called, very affectionately, the Gestapo, not to mention a mysterious, hooded figure of a murderer who pushes passengers on the rails when a train arrives on the platform. Is he one of the controllers or just another deranged soul?
What makes people work in the subway? Let’s face it, the job is miserable and it attracts just misfits, slovenly, unkempt, unshaven, often sleeping in the same clothes they work in. Bulcsu never returns to surface, preferring empty platforms to a warm bed. One of his pals, Muki, when enraged, suffers from narcolepsy. Another one, called simply the Professor, considers Kontrolling a holy mission of a kind. Soon it becomes obvious the kontrollers don’t really care if people are riding free; what they care about is getting a proof they still have some self-respect left.
The funniest but also the most haunting scene was a session with a psychologist each controller has to undergo once in a while. It was creepy to see how botched-up these people were. Is our reality much different, however? Is the schizophrenic, slightly childish hero and his deranged gang a metaphor of the post-communist Hungarians? Who knows?
I suppose it could be easily a post-apocalyptic science fiction movie if only the director had a bigger budget. A blend of styles but similar problems – if you feel like watching something original give Control a chance. The ride was a bit wild but enjoyable nevertheless!