Sunday, July 13, 2008

Children of Glory (Szabadság, Szerelem)

Bleeding For My Country

Nobody likes to be cheated against in sports, especially so when participating in national level events, and worse, having a supposedly neutral referee awarding dubious decisions that work against your favour, even if it's clear cut they're either receiving some kickbacks, or are genuinely blind. To the Hungarian water-polo team playing against their occupiers the Soviet Union in the 1950s, it meant bowing to rough tactics and having no respite at all.

Perhaps what took me by surprise, is how rich the production values are for this movie. Like films set against an historical backdrop, such as Black Book, Lust, Caution and the likes, Children of Glory never scrimped at fleshing out the masses who got themselves involved in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, where a simple protest in a university spiralled into armed resistance involving thousands marching through the streets, showing their dissatisfaction of mistreatment by the Russians, and the usual chants of "Russians Go Home!".

While on a macro level it introduced us to the era of Soviet occupation in most of the eastern Europe bloc, this is essentially also a love story, between a national hero of a water polo player Karcsi Szabo (Ivan Fenyo) and student activist Viki Falk (Kata Dobo). Naturally their relationship doesn't start off smoothly, with a clash of ideals given that Karcsi is in a privileged position for his value to the country in sports, and having more to lose if the status quo is changed. For Viki, it's change that she, and her fellow student leaders, want to initiate, no matter how small their actions are, but soon enough, it became a hydra that went out of control, giving them a little victory, before the big sledgehammer of a retaliation when any typical authoritarian regime respond with their military might.

I guess with those in power, and having those who privilege themselves under such conditions, change will always seem threatening, be it to current lifestyles, or fear for their lives. It might appear selfish as demonstrated by Karcsi's mother in self preservation, constantly reminding Karcsi of his duty to win medals for his country, and not to mix with negative influences such as Viki, associated with trouble for her bearing of arms, and being part of the inner circle of the change movement. But we know love can't keep these two apart, right?

What made Children of Glory a delight, was besides the scenes of historical value, and its recreation of street battles, it had possibly the first water-polo sports game in a movie I had watched, and filmed it with plenty of excitement that you can't help but to cheer the Hungarian team on as they battle for pride, and for their countrymen's struggles back home, as they meet arch nemesis Russia during the 1956 Melbourne Olympic games, resulting in what was a bloody match in the pool. I thought this segment was very well shot, though you had to really sit through the film to be rewarded for a segment toward the finale.

Wonderful acting, rich costumes and sets, together with a blend of history to lend some narrative gravitas, make Children of Glory an excellent movie on many fronts. I like it enough for it to make it to my highly recommended list, and contender for the top 10 movies of the year list.

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