TÍZEZER NAP – TEN THOUSAND DAYS (1965)
Director: Ferenc Kósa
Script: Ferenc Kósa, Sándor Csoóri, Imre Gyöngyössy
Music: András Szöllösy
Cinematography: Sándor Sára
Cast: Tibor Molnár, Gyöngyi Bürös
János Koltai, László Nyers
Ferenc Kósa’s debut feature film TÍZEZER NAP received early international acclaim at Cannes before returning to Hungarian censors where large portions of the film became censored. Even though the film was voted one of the Budapest 12, it still has polarizing views among Hungarians with some viewing it harshly as propaganda. Released well after the 1956 revolution, TÍZEZER NAP was released at a time when Hungary saw an increased standard of living and right before Kádár’s free-market changes in 1968. TÍZEZER NAP would also mark Kósa’s long relationship with fellow filmmaker Sándor Sára and writer Sándor Csoóri.
TÍZEZER NAP begins before World War II, following the peasant István who meets his soon- to-be wife Juli as they work on a farm for a landowner. István’s only friend is a fellow peasant named Fülöp who gets them in trouble with the landowner by stealing straw so they can stay warm. Exiled from the farm, they end up at a factory doing hard labor and befriend Mihály. The factory soon goes on strike, but all three friends want to continue working in order to feed their families. This causes their fellow workers other workers to act violently towards them for rejecting the strike. Hungary has now exited World War II and finds itself a Socialist nation, which Fülöp embraces. István and Mihály quickly learn the truth about Socailism as their harvested grain is taken from them and stored in government silos. When they attempt to take back the grain, they are arrested and Mihály finds himself dead after fighting with the police officer.
István is imprisoned in Recski, a copper mine that was a prison work camp, for not preventing the fight from escalating and for his theft of the grain. When he is released from prison, he returns to his village to find Fülöp enjoying the benefits of being an early Socialist activist. The time period then shifts to the 1956 revolution and Fülöp finds himself in front of a firing squad with István apathetic to helping his friend. TÍZEZER NAP concludes in the period of farm collectivism with István succumbing to depression and attempting to hang himself over all the trouble he has experienced in his life. In the censored edition, the film was edited to have a happier ending in which István realizes the error of his ways and embraces farm collectivism.
The film is ultimately a brilliant saga of the life of a stubborn peasant at the precipice of fast- changing history in Hungary. Kósa uses water not just as a metaphor of time, but also as the weight of experience and the lack of control an individual possesses. István as a character is idealistically a simple man who only wants to provide for a family, but understands the crushing weight of poverty. He vows to Juli that if she was to birth a son that he would strangle it before it had to live a life similar to his own. This scene shows István’s desire for some semblance of control, though as the rest of the film progresses the audience realizes that István has no control and will constantly lose it all either to political shifts or his own imprisonment.
TÍZEZER NAP is also a strikingly beautiful film thanks to the work of Sándor Sára, who would later direct many great films including FELDOBOTT KÖ (1969) and 80 HUSZÁR (1978). Sára’s photography adds a lot of depth stylistically, but also continues to expand on the narrative themes. A scene shows workers at the mines viewed from the side as they rhythmically work in lines, a similar shot showing horses as they go to the market to be sold for labor is used later in the film. These images, when combined, show a contrasting idea of the perceived value of these working class peasants.
Even though Kósa’s TÍZEZER NAP may not have the obvious parallel commentary that a Jancsó film might have, I don’t believe the film was intended to be propaganda for the Socialist movement. Censorship seems to cloud Kósa’s original intent of showing a Hungary that was being lost as Socialism continued where Fascism left off, crushing a lower class that only wanted to climb out of poverty. TÍZEZER NAP is available in an English friendly edition from MaNDA which also includes two early shorts from the director, FÉNY (1962) and ÖNGYILKOSSÁG (1967).