Director: János Szász
(2013, feature, 35mm, colour, 100 min.)
Co-produced with Germany, Austria, France
Screenplay: János Szász, András Szekér
Sound: István Sipos
Art director: István Galambos
Costumes: János Breckl
Producer: Pál Sándor, Sándor Söth
Co-producer: Amour Fou Filmproduktion / AT, Dolce Vita Films / FR
Production company: Hunnia Film Studio, Intuit Pictures / DE
Cast: László Gyémánt, András Gyémánt, Piroska Molnár, Ulrich Thomsen, Ulrich Matthes, Orsi Tóth, Péter Andorai
Le Grand Cahier (A nagy füzet)
2013 – Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Crystal Globe (main prize)
A fascinating and hard-hitting adaptation of the controversial first novel by Hungarian writer Agota Kristof about 13-year-old twins forced to spend the last years of the Second World War with their cruel grandmother somewhere near the Hungarian border. The term bewitching was never so apt as in the case of this new film by renowned filmmaker and theatre director János Szász.
In a village on the Hungarian border, two young brothers grow up during war time with their cruel grandmother and must learn every trick of evil to survive in the absurd world of adults.
Towards the end of World War II, people in big cities are at the mercy of air raids and death by starvation. A desperate young mother leaves her 13-year-old twin sons at their grandmother’s house in the country, despite the fact that this grandmother is a cruel and bestial alcoholic. The villagers call her “the Witch” because she is rumored to have poisoned her husband long ago.
Previously pampered, the twins must learn how to survive alone in their new, rural surroundings. They realize that the only way to cope with the absurd and inhumane world of adults and war is to become completely unfeeling and merciless. By learning to free themselves from hunger, pain and emotion, they will be able to endure future hardships. So they begin their own series of studies: they fortify their spirits by reading the Bible and learning foreign languages. They practice every day to harden their bodies and minds. They hold their hands over flames, cut their legs, arms and chests with a knife and pour alcohol right on their wounds. They desensitize themselves to insults and learn to ignore the more insidious appeals of sentiment and love.
The twins keep a written record of all they have witnessed during the war, the Notebook. When they write, they follow their own strict code: The prose must be free from emotion, the notes precise and objective.