Saturday, June 25, 2005


Kontroll opened the Singapore Fantastic Film Festival last Thursday, and it is no surprise why. Its intriguing setting in an underground metro system is familiar everyday territory that probably everyone can relate to if you're commuting by train. Having been on some of Europe's metro systems (London, Paris, Munich, Rome), this film offered me the chance to see and experience yet another country's train system.

The film centers on Bulcsu, a Budapest Metro train ticket inspector, who, with his squad of 4 men, travel in its system to inspect "tickets or passes". Its showcase of stereotypical passengers who refuse to pay is hilarious, as we encounter photo-happy Japanese tourists, the "sleeper", the pimps, even dogs on board (now we know why the MRT has a no-pets policy). What makes it all the more fun is that his squad consists of affable characters, ranging from a clueless newbie, to one who is prone to subconsciously go into comatose. Between squads, there also exists rivalry, and we're introduced to a dare called "railing".

While going about their thankless jobs, it makes you wonder the kind of abuse (verbal or otherwise) that these folks face as they go about their daily scope of work. Definitely not fun, nor one in which I would like to be in. We're also shown an extreme example of a "what-if" scenario - if the abuse being the last straw on the camel's back, exactly what could probably happen (though I must say there could be some artistic license taken on weapons being brought along).

However, added to its narrative layer is a small bit romance between Bulscu and a lady (of course, she isn't a paying commuter) who, for some reason, rides the metro in a bear suit. And we're also introduced from the very start, a mystery which runs through the entire show - that of commuters who apparently commit suicide by jumping onto the tracks. Or were they actually pushed?

I suppose this sub plot touches a bit closer to home, as our own mass rapid transit has of late experienced similar phenomenons. Similarly, CCTV cameras don't show anything peculiar, or the incident happened out of the scope of these cameras. However, the conclusion to this phenomenon is a discussion point, as it is very open to interpretation.

The scene which I thoroughly enjoyed, I called it the "Bootsie Chase". While the usual Hollywood fare features the all too common car chases, it's about time you can to enjoy the good old foot chase, and in this scene, set to pulsating electronica beats, is a joy to behold, as the characters involved weave through passengers, the station and its pillars.

This is an enjoyable film with an excellent soundtrack (in English), but I've watched it on its second and final run on the festival. You might want to check out the DVD release, as it certainly deserves to be labelled and be part of a Fantastic selection!

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