The Lady from Constantinople

  • 76'
  • Hungary
  • 1969

There’s little by way of a story to Judit Elek’s feature debut The Lady from Constantinople – we spend some time with a lonely elderly lady changing houses and walking around town. And yet, how rich this film is, as she finds herself time and again in weird, awkward, outright surreal situations, including a funeral on a rooftop and an impromptu party full of strangers.

Elek shot vast parts of the film on streets among unsuspecting ordinary folk who got dragged into the film’s fiction by legendary actor Kiss Manyi whenever she started to comment on things they said, for instance. Some added vérité mileage was provided by the work of handheld camera genius Elemér Ragályi, whose leanly muscular style would soon grace gems as different as István Gaál’s poetic study on the functioning of dictatorial structures, Magasiskola (1970) and György Szomjas’s romantic, revolutionary steppe Western, Talpuk alatt fütyül a szél (1975). A revelation!

 

Olaf Möller

Director
Judit Elek
Country of production
Hungary
Year
1969
Festival Edition
IFFR 2023
Length
76'
Medium
DCP
Original title
Sziget a szárazföldön
Language
Hungarian
Production Company
Mafilm
Sales
National Film Institute Hungary
Screenplay
Iván Mándy
Cinematography
Elemér Ragalyi
Editor
Sándor Boronkay
Production Design
Tamás Banovich
Music
Vilmos Körmendi
Cast
Manyi Kiss, Éva Almási, László Bathó, József Bánfalvi, Itala Békés, Rita Békés, János Csapó

Programme IFFR 2023

Focus: Judit Elek

Judit Elek (1937) is among world cinema’s most uncompromising figures. Beloved by IFFR founder Huub Bals, yet to this day little known in wider circles, Elek made both fiction and documentary films that are almost brutally personal, reflecting as much the history of her native Hungary as her own trauma-riddled life. International Film Festival Rotterdam is honoured to present the most complete retrospective so far of an auteur whose works and wisdom are needed today as urgently as ever.

Read more about this programme