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Hukkle

The Hungarian film Hukkle (2002) is one of the more unusual cinematic offerings of recent years, and one of the more enjoyable to boot. With no spoken dialogue, this brief 75-minute feature eavesdrops on various moments over the course of a single day in a seemingly quiet, isolated small town. A lack of words, however, doesn't mean this is one to be watched with the volume muted —the soundscape is just as important as the image, as demonstrated by the film's title, a transliteration of the sound of an old man's hiccup. It's this old man who starts the movie off by waking up, shuffling about, and taking his place on a roadside bench, all the while plagued by spasms of the diaphragm which echo humorously. As the meticulously photographed film continues, writer-director György Pálfi pays as much attention to the non-human animals as to the villagers: frogs, bees, and cats all go about their mundane, frequently dangerous business. The languid pace of Hukkle is such that a first-time viewer might almost miss the fact that a murder mystery of sorts is unfolding amidst all this humdrum wonder. A body lies at the bottom of a lake; a policeman examines crime-scene photos for hidden clues. But looking for a linear, narrative explanation to these events is both fruitless and beside the point. This potentially melodramatic crime (if it indeed is one) is no more or less important than the anachronistic flyby of a jet fighter in the film's most startling scene or, for, that matter, an old man sitting on a bench, hiccupping. Home Vision Entertainment's DVD edition of Hukkle features an adequate transfer, which preserves the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Fortunately, the soundtrack has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, allowing the atmospheric audio to achieve full effect. Pálfi's commentary is presented in Hungarian with English subtitles, and for those who don't mind reading their commentaries, it's a fascinating look into the mind of this up-and-coming first-time director, who was 27 when he made Hukkle. There's also a 25-minute documentary, "The Making of Hukkle," apparently taken from Hungarian television and reflecting the expected production values. Completing this impressively exhaustive presentation is a batch of pre-production footage, text excerpts from the production diary, and a theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—Marc Mohan



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