Short review for LittleWhiteLies of Hungarian drama 'Just the Wind' that played at the London Film Festival
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With haunting realism, Just the Wind meticulously follows members of a Hungarian Roma family through one day as they attempt to go about their lives in the aftermath of a series of violent attacks on their community.
This gut-wrenching drama from Benedek Fliegauf is based around incidents in 2008, in which racist fanatics assaulted Roma family homes with molotov cocktails, shotguns and hunting rifles.
The film is fictional, but real events are skilfully woven into the narrative. It documents the effects of the growing intolerance towards gypsies in Hungary, and paints a compelling portrait of the daily terror in which they live.
Popular discourse presents Gypsies as living on the margins of society, yet the film reverses this image to show that they are trapped, surrounded and besieged.
Fliegauf's camera is almost always ranged downwards mirroring the characters' eye-line. On rare occasions that Mari (Katalin Toldi) and Anna (Gyöngyi Lendvai) lift their eyes from the floor, the wall of trees that meets their gaze illustrate their entrapment and isolation.
Mostly, their eyes are glued to the floor, avoiding all eye contact, especially when they are out in the wider community, at school or work. They are barely tolerated when in contact with the outside world.
An exchange between Anna and her teacher alone in the classroom, for example, oozes with menace. We see the teacher look her over, his eyes like those of a cat toying with a mouse between its paws.
Just the Wind's distinctive visual style has the camera locked tight to the characters. Its gaze is so close and intense, yet respectful, that it goes beyond voyeuristic and allows us to inhabit the characters: seeing, breathing and moving with them, we begin to feel as suffocated by their existence as they are.
Dialogue is sparse, instead, just as the camera focusses on the tiniest visual details, sound effects too - scraping plates or wind rustling the grass - are amplified to create ear-splitting tension.
This hypersensitivity reflects the state of the Roma as hunted prey who rely on a heightened perception of threat to survive.
The film uses music sparingly, but by beginning and ending the feature with gypsy laments, the story is placed into a context of centuries of gypsy oppression.
Through the combination of visual style and unusual handling of sound, Just the Wind creates a deeply moving and immersive sensory experience.
Anticipation 4: Won Jury Grand Prix at Berlin. Impressive.
Enjoyment 4: Enjoyment might not be the right word, but utterly gripping throughout.
In Retrospect 4: A searingly powerful film, it won't be easily forgotten.