Diary for My Father and Mother (1990)

Not as powerful or involving as Meszaros’ previous semi-autobiographical ‘Diaries’, but as an opportunity to grasp how the 1956 Hungarian Revolution impacted and divided its people, it does an adequate job. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,194

Dir. Marta Meszaros
1990 | Hungary | Drama | 111 mins | 1.66:1 | Hungarian
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some mature themes and disturbing images

Cast: Zsuzsa Czinkoczi, Jan Nowicki, Anna Polony
Plot: Juli grows into adulthood and becomes a director in the shadow of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. Coming from the intelligentsia, she sees her entourage react differently to the revolution. 
Source: Hungarian National Film Archive

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Hungarian Revolution

Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

The third of Marta Meszaros’ semi-autobiographical ‘Diaries’, which are her best-known works, Diary for My Father and Mother may not be as powerful or involving as what had come before, but taken together, these films are an excellent primer to learning more about the history and politics of postwar Hungary as it fell under Soviet communist rule. 

Here, the orphaned Juli (as reprised by Zsuzsa Czinkoczi) faces the 1956 Hungarian Revolution head-on as she grapples with the decisions of some of the older folks who have brought her up or taken care of her over the years. 

Jan Nowicki, a reliable regular in Meszaros’ stable of actors, gets more screen time here than in Diary for My Loves (1987), playing Janos, a father figure to Juli. 

“All sacrifices were in vain.”

While Hungary and its people are caught in two minds as politics and ideologies turn friends into enemies—there are those who support the Soviet intervention, while others like Janos, believe in his nation’s ability to self-govern and be free of oppression—haunted pasts, guilt and the fear of being betrayed begin to trickle into the psyche of almost everyone who harbours certain beliefs, whether as an ‘anti’ or a ‘pro’. 

Meszaros’ filmmaking remains supple despite the more serious subject matter, and the film gives us a painful if inevitable climax that closes the trilogy. 

One of the more memorable sequences of this ‘Diary’ sees a dozen or so people, most familiar to Juli, celebrating New Year’s Eve with song-and-dance despite a night curfew imposed by the Soviets keeping them indoors. 

The film is as much a celebration of the Hungarian people and their spirit, as it is the sacrifices some made in the belief that they were doing the right thing for their country.  

Grade: B

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