Much like the electric light, telegraph, and motion pictures it chronicles, My Twentieth Century (Enyedi, 1989) is a marvel of its age. Luminous to the point of transcendence, it is quite simply one of the most beautiful things ever committed to film. The divergent paths of our twin protagonists Dóra and Lili (both roles immaculately performed by the same actor, Dorota Segda) find them at the opposite ends of the social spectrum in Hungary at the turn of the titular twentieth century. One a socialite, one an anarchist, they unknowingly weave their way back to one another after being split up as children, navigating some of the most momentous points in history and technological advancement in the process.
This sounds like heady stuff, and it is, but My Twentieth Century is handled by Ildikó Enyedi with such a deft, playful touch that it never feels didactic or a chore. It is a joy to behold and all of the discoveries and innovations leave the viewer with the feeling that we’re on the cusp of something magnificent, like the world crackles with potential. It also doesn’t shy away from the questions of unfulfilled promise that follow in the wake of moving too far forward, too fast. It’s a brilliant and spirited examination of revolutions large and small, personal, political, and sexual. There’s no time like the present to catch up with it.
What you’ll find in this episode: more nature versus nurture, animals teaching us what it means to be human, sad Edison, and ringing in the new year on the Orient Express.
Check out My Twentieth Century on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Werckmeister Harmonies.
A great list of essential films for an introduction to Hungarian cinema.
An incredible gallery of Hungarian film posters.