Hukkle, the directorial debut of Hungarian director Gyorgi Palfi, is an odd little movie that seems, for about half of its short running time, to be a psychedelic nature film. It starts with an old man sitting on a bench at the side of a village road, hiccuping — an amusingly bucolic image. It then moves in close to examine his surroundings, both natural and man-made. The scene locale may seem like the middle of nowhere, sparsely inhabited by simple farming folk, but dig a little and a whole world of throbbing existence is revealed. The village is teeming with life and human beings are just an element in the mix. Human voices are heard in murmuring groups or, barely discernible, from a distance, blended into the hum of nature.
We see the humans harvesting and eating food, the animals stalking and eating each other. The lack of any kind of a plot isn’t a problem because the free-access camera work keeps delivering enough “How did they do that?” shots to keep the film effective on the novelty level. Palfi has an imaginative eye and it’s not just the up-close-and-personal views of underground and underwater inhabitants that have an aura of strangeness but also mundane human activities like eating and hiccuping. Watching a beekeeper from a bee’s point of view, or a fish contemplating a baited hook is only marginally more exotic than watching silent men and women shovel gruel into their waiting mandibles. Only once does the strangeness seem contrived, when a low-flying plane comes to a complete halt in mid-air. But it’s a lovely absurdist moment in a film full of similarly beguiling images.
And just when the viewer begins to accept that Palfi has no particular narrative in mind, the barest traces of a plot begin to emerge. We see a body at the bottom of a lake. We see a woman adding something dubious to the food she’s preparing. A policeman is shown visiting various people. A man walking down the road suddenly collapses. Is there a poisoner in the village? Has a murder been committed? Palfi does his best to present these questions as nothing more than riffs in his anthropological medley. The dead man in his watery grave is just another part of the swarm of nature. And the old man at the side of the road continues to hiccup. —
Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), Monday, Feb. 23. Call 313-833-3237.
Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.