MOVIE REVIEW: Fehérlófia (Hungary, 1981)

Director: Marcell Jankovics
Writers: László György, Marcell Jankovics
Music by: István Vajda

Start by collecting bits and pieces of local folk tales and legends. In this case, that means Hungarian, Avar, and others from the peoples that came and went through that part of southeast Europe.

Assemble them into a fairly standard “Hero’s Journey” tale.

Decide to animate the result.

Take some mild hallucinogens to give you inspiration for your design aesthetic….

I don’t know if Marcell Jankovics actually did do any drugs when making this movie, but from what I’ve read about the problems he had getting it completed, he might have wanted to.

Also known as Son of the White Mare, this is not your kid’s fairy tale. Although the story is quite benign, there’s some decidedly “adult” imagery and symbolism to be seen. Oops, now that you know it’s there, you’re going to look for it – and you’ll never be able to unsee it. Sorry.

The plot is simple. Treeshaker (that’s the accepted translation of his Hungarian name) is raised by his mother, a white mare (no idea who the father is). She tells him of three princesses, who did what ditzy princesses in these kind of stories do: they opened the box that their father specifically told them to NEVER EVER OPEN. All hell broke loose (pretty much literally), and three dragons came up from the underworld to take the princesses to be their wives. Treeshaker vows to collect his two long lost older brothers, and go off to the rescue. In the final battles with the three dragons, the movie acquires a bit of an anti-technology motif.

The voice acting (even given that it’s in a language I don’t understand) is acceptable. By the way, you’ll need subtitles unless you speak Hungarian. The characters are pretty meh. Treeshaker’s oldest brother, Stonecrusher, is a bit lazy and cowardly. His other brother, Ironrubber (seriously, that’s the most often used translation of his name), seems to be a bit impetuous. One of the three princesses comes across as rather a slut. That’s it.

So what’s so special about this movie, then? You recall that I mentioned “hallucinogens” in regards to the design aesthetic? That’s what’s special.

It’s all BRIGHT and BOLD colors, with lots of HIGH CONTRAST and STYLIZED shapes.

Movie so bright, I gotta wear shades

L to R: “Bender”, Treeshaker, and “Rocky”

Nothing subtle here! You practically need sunglasses when watching it.

For those of you trained on Disney, Pixar, and anime, it can be quite jarring. But once you get into the swing of things, it’s really incredibly beautiful and a sheer delight to behold. Give it a look.

Oh, and if you do watch it “under the influence”, I don’t need to know, OK?

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