‘The directing and drama are very well thought out, as is the cinematography, which is beautifully shot.’
Árpád Bogdán’s first feature film Boldog új élet / Happy New Life was produced by Laokoon Film Production Company, whose producer, Judit Stalter, is a creative of Romani origin and one of the founders of IRCF. It can be seen as a post-socialist ‘could happen wherever in Central and Eastern Europe’ (Árpád Bogdán) story that follows a young man who tries to start an independent life after having left a state foster home. His urban environment, the panel blocks of flats and the suburban industrial spaces mirror his mental and psychological state. He searches for human contacts in order to build his new adult identity, but he cannot succeed without revealing the past. He gets practical – albeit illegal – help in the form of a dossier that contains his personal record, as well as information about his parents and the brutal circumstances under which he was taken away from them.
Despite the dream-like style, the scene that represents the childhood memories can be interpreted as a re-enactment, reinforcing remembrance of discrimination. Thus the film reflects the everyday struggles of the oppressed, which in the case of the director and the protagonist are related to the experience of being an orphan and belonging to a minority. The fact that the script is based on the director’s personal story was revealed later in Megtagadva (Denied), a 2009 documentary shot by Antónia Mészáros. The traumatic memories are represented in a dream-like scene that refers to his Roma origins. The importance of roots is also apparent in another scene in the movie, presenting the home-like, intimate surroundings of a Roma family, where the grandmother (played by Ágnes Daróczi, an important public figure and Romani civil right activist) reads a fairy-tale to a little girl. But the missing childhood memories, coupled with the absence of the Romani mother tongue – which could empower him with self-confidence and the strength of the community – cannot be replaced by fantasies and illusions.
The cinematography and music score underpin each other, and in combination with the poetic orphanage-story narration create a special atmosphere situated somewhere between fiction and reality. This would indisputably become Árpád Bogdán’s hallmark, marking out his films from other works by the new generation of filmmakers who had grown up during the transitional era.
38th Hungarian Film Week: Sándor Simó Award (Best debut)
38th Hungarian Film Week: Student Jury Award
38th Hungarian Film Week: Best Original Music Score
42nd Karlovy Vary Film Festival: East of the West Competition http://www.kviff.com/en/programme/film/113328-happy-new-life/ (accessed 30 May 2017)
Cineromani, ‘Poetics and Politics’, 2013, Berlin Zeughauskino, https://www.dhm.de/archiv/kino/cinemaromani.html (accessed 12 June 2017)
Pócsik, Andrea’: ‘Az első “nagy dobás”. Beszélgetés Bogdán Árpád filmrendezővel’, http://www.filmtett.ro/cikk/2723/beszelgetes-bogdan-arpad-filmrendezovel (accessed 14 June 2017)