(A.k.a. A MARTFUI REM [original title])
Based on a true story.
It's 1957 and we're in the small, quiet Hungarian town of Martfu. Reti (Gabor Jaszberenyi) is an unassuming-looking young man who arrives at the local shoe factory to walk his mistress home. He's recently divorced in the hope that she will move in with him and help him raise his son. But her change of heart results in an altercation on their journey home.
What happened next is unclear; we only have Reti's unreliable police statement to go by. In the interrogation room, he confesses to bludgeoning his mistress in a fit of rage, and during a scene-specific re-enactment of the crime even goes so far as to show them how he raped his victim post-mortem. But Reti's admission is full of glaring contradictions.
Despite this, he stands trial and is sentenced to life imprisonment. Prison is brutal to him - one early shower scene details him being surrounded by burly aggressors and suffering the painful indignity of having a two-foot stick rammed up his arse. So, if he's taking the rap for someone else's wrongdoing, the question is ... why??
The action then leaps forward by seven years, to 1964. Reti is still in jail. But Martfu is not safe: someone is traversing its sedate country lanes on their motorcycle, picking up local ladies and luring them into the countryside where they are raped and murdered.
Could it be that Reti's confession was indeed a false one, and the killer has resurfaced several years down the line? His sister Rita (Zsofia Szamosi) certainly believes this to be the case, and urges her brother to appeal his sentence - if only for him to finally have a relationship with the son he hasn't seen in seven years.
In the meantime, the local police are largely either ineffectual or drunk, often casually compromising crime scenes like there's no tomorrow. It's only when city prosecutor Zoltan (Peter Barnai) turns up wanting to be involved in every aspect of their investigations that a glimmer of hope finally emerges.
And the murders continue in brutal, regular fashion ...
STRANGLED is an excellent addition to the cinema of true crime. Director Arpad Sopsits enables the plot to unravel in fluent style, eliciting superb performances across the board while allowing plenty of space for Gabo Szabo's stunning cinematography to shine through. The film is gorgeous, though never in a distracting manner.
The mystery element hooks the viewer in from the off, punctuated regularly by shocking frank depictions of the murders (hammer attacks, rapes, strangulation - all shown in jarring matter-of-fact fashion).
This is also a very human drama, probing into the personal motivations and foibles of almost all concerned. We care for these people, even if we don't always like them. This also allows for some creeping dark humour to poke through, especially when considering the bungling cops.
Underpinned by Mark Moldvai's subtly haunting score, STRANGLED comes on like a heady mix of the police procedural tightness of M, the stylised European psycho-thriller approach of ANTIBODIES and the disturbing blend of mordant humour and historically factual murder set-pieces of the original THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. And yet, it stands alone as a visually unique, utterly involving account of one of the darkest periods in 20th Century Hungary.
Eureka!'s dual format release (DVD and blu-ray) forms part of their new Montage line. We were sent a screener copy of the blu-ray disc to review.
The film looks utterly fantastic, presented as a handsomely-sized MPEG4-AVC file in full 1080p HD. The original 2.35:1 ratio is adhered to, benefiting - of course - from 16x9 enhancement. As you would expect from a 2016 film with good production values, there's nothing to quibble about on the visual front. Blacks are consistently solid, colours are strong and true, detail is ridiculously intricate ... this transfer is a sterling proposition.
Likewise, the clean, clear and spacious Hungarian audio - offered in choices of 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio - are flawlessly conveyed. Optional English subtitles are easy to read at all times. These are mostly well-written, despite the occasional "broken English" translation.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. Although there is no scene selection menu, the film itself does can be navigated through by way of 12 chapters.
There are no extra features.
STRANGLED is a beautiful, beguiling and occasionally unexpectedly shocking true crime flick. It looks magnificent on Eureka!'s blu-ray and comes highly recommended.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Eureka!|