October 7, 2020

The Fifth Seal Anniversary

On October 7, 1976, the film of Zoltán Fábri's "The Fifth Seal" was released on the screens of cinemas in Hungary. The film is based on a novel by Hungarian writer Ferenc Sánta, published in 1963.

In June of the following year, 1977, Zoltan Fabri's film represented Hungarian cinema at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it was nominated for the main prize, the Golden Bear. The jury of the film festival, chaired by the Austrian film actress Zenta Berger, awarded the main prize to another great work of world cinema - the Soviet film by Larisa Shepitko "Ascent". And there are no complaints about such a decision the jury and cannot be. Both films were worthy of victory, but there should be one winner. It is possible, of course, that some role was played by the fact that one of the members of that jury was the famous, already at that time, Soviet and Russian film director Andrei Konchalovsky.

A month later, the film "The Fifth Seal" has already participated in the competition program of the Moscow International Film Festival. And here the festival jury, chaired by the great Soviet director Stanislav Rostotsky, decided that there could be more than one winners. Or rather, three. The Gold Prize (the main award of the film festival) was awarded to the film "The Fifth Seal" (an absolutely clear and fair decision), the film "Mimino" by Georgy Danelia (also an understandable and fair decision, if it is allowed that there can be more than one winners) and the film "El puente (Foul Play)" by Juan Antonio Bardem. And here the question “why?” arises, since at least half of the films in the competition program were in no way inferior to this Spanish film. However, these are already "things of bygone days" that do not deserve special attention.

After the Moscow Film Festival, the film "The Fifth Seal" was released on the screens of Soviet cinemas. And we with my friends, the then students, watched this film several times, each time after the session arguing to a hoarseness who is right after all: Tamateos Katatiki or Dyudyu. We then, in the 77th year of the last century, could mot imagine that 37 years later, in 2014, the French journalist Elena Kondratyeva-Salghero would reveal to the world the truth that “This film is one of those that you need to see in your life once. In order not to wither just like that, at the sunset of long (or short) years, missing something very important. But only once. In extreme cases, two - to make sure that nothing has leaked by. To watch this film once again and further - you need to be hereditary masochist. " I immediately remembered the words from the once popular advertising: "But the men don't even know".

Then, in 1977, we guessed that the title of the film was somehow connected with the Bible, but we could not check the guess: religious literature was not very accessible at that time in our country. Only with the abolition of ideological prohibitions did it become possible to establish the source of the origin of the name of the masterpieces of Sánta and Fábri - the Apocalypse of John (Ch. 6:9-11): "9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."

The almost complete absence of reviews of this film by professional Western film critics testifies to the fact that Western censorship did not allow this film to be shown in cinemas in Western countries. The more valuable is the mention on the IMDB website of the review of the Indian blogger Jugu Abraham, the author of the blog, which is called "Movies that make you think". Jugu Abraham believes that "Very few films deal with philosophy and ethical human choices under extreme testing situations. The Fifth Seal is one that not only presents a philosophical dilemma on screen but will make any intelligent and sensitive viewer to ponder over his or her own choice under similar circumstances. "

While collecting materials about this favorite film of Zoltan Fabri, I came across a commentary on "The Fifth Seal" on a Hungarian cinema site. The author of this commentary argued that the authors of both the novel and the film, depicting the events of about 1944, that is, the time of the Nilashist regime in Hungary, in fact meant the events in Hungary in the mid-50s. Well, that is, the suppression of the Hungarian revolution by the Soviet army. And that, allegedly, in the 60s - 70s it was simply impossible in Hungary to call a spade a spade, and therefore had to portray the Hungarian accomplices of the fascists, meaning the Russians. By the way, the above-mentioned review of the Indian blogger also contains a similar hint that, supposedly, the nilashists in the film can be replaced by Russians.

In my opinion, such interpretations of the masterpieces of Shant and Fabry testify to the complete lack of logic in their authors. After all, any more or less sane person understands that if the film contained even the slightest attack on the USSR, on the Russians, the film would simply fill the screens of all Western cinemas. It would get a bunch of all kinds of prizes and so on. But no. The film was broadcasted only in cinemas in Eastern Europe, the so-called "socialist camp".

Finally, these interpretations appeared only in 2014-2015. Not in the 60s and 70s, when the novel and the film appeared. And not even in the 90s, when the socialist camp collapsed, and, it would seem, there was an opportunity to write anything about the USSR and the Russians. No, then it was still impossible: the authors were still alive, which means that it was quite possible to fall under a reasonable refutation. And only after their death (1994 and 2008), when there were no longer those who could refute such fabrications, such "interpretations" appeared. This is how lies are born.

In our opinion, the the point of view of the famous Russian film critic Sergei Kudryavtsev, stated in his 2006 review, is closer to the truth: “One of the best films by Hungarian director Zoltán Fábri is a parable not only thanks to the reminiscences from the Bible ... But it is enough to compare the film “The Fifth Seal”, for example, with the more symbolic “Seventh Seal” by Ingmar Bergman, in order to be convinced of Fábri's desire to bring the parable closer to reality, where you have to make not a philosophically abstract, but a very specific choice concerning not only your own life, but also the fate of other people. The metaphorical meaning of the story told is not explicitly given, but rather guessed." And, apparently, not everyone can guess this meaning.

But the assessments of modern cinema audiences, exposed to the film on the IMDB and Kinopoisk websites, indicate that there is a lot of those who are able to understand the metaphorical meaning inherent in the film. 81% of IMDB and Kinopoisk users gave this masterpiece by Zoltán Fábri 8 or more. And every third user generally gave the highest rating of 10. I dare to assume that the majority of IMDB and Kinopoisk users who highly rated "The Fifth Seal" would agree that the film is, in fact, a genius, that it should be watched and reviewed. And every time you will learn something new.

With that said, Zoltán Fábri's "The Fifth Seal" is rated 8.695 by FilmGourmand and is ranked 243rd in the Golden Thousand.