EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE – ANOTHER WAY (1982)
Director: Makk Károly
Script: Galgóczi Erzsébet
Music: Giorgio Moroder, Dés László, Másik János
Cinematography: Andor Tamás
Cast: Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak, Grazyna Szapolowska, Jozef Króner
Andorai Péter, Reviczky Gábor
Makk Károly has been making films since the 50’s and is still directing features as recently as 2010, but his work is barely recognized in the west outside of his 1971 masterpiece SZERELEM (LOVE). Much like SZERELEM, EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE uses a relationship as the central element for its themes. Both films also occur against the backdrop of harrowing times, with EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE occurring during the wake of the 1956 Revolution and SZERELEM involving a husband absent, arrested as a political prisoner. Still, if you were to compare Makk’s political commentary against that of his colleagues, the films are outwardly more direct. Choosing a narrative that is identifiable makes EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE more humanistic, far from the abstract scenarios in films by fellow director Jancsó. Perhaps it is this tepidness in Hungary’s more relaxed censorship that helps Makk arrive at this level of prestige among Western critics.
Like a tragic play, EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE begins with the conclusion of events. Lívia (Grazyna Szapolowska) is in the hospital suffering from a serious injury, her husband is in jail and her lover has committed suicide. Now returning to the start, we learn Lívia is a journalist for a paper in Budapest that has just hired a new writer, Éva (Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak), who presumably had been blacklisted for participating in the 1956 Revolution. Together they share an office and Éva soon falls for Lívia who is married to an officer, Dönci (Andorai Péter).
One night after work, they visit a bar with another journalist and after an evening of drinking they kiss and embrace where Éva confesses her love. The next morning, Lívia feels unsure so she exchanges offices with a coworker to put space between herself and Éva. Along with another reporter, Lívia and Éva are assigned to report on a new farmers’ commune established after the revolution. At first, Lívia rejects the assignment based on her feelings about Éva but eventually she decides to make the trip.
The commune hosts a party and invites the reporters. Éva spends her time questioning the farmers, searching out corruption in the community. Lívia chooses to dance with most of the men present at the party while Éva conducts her interviews. At the end of the night, Lívia chooses to avoid Éva who is disappointed. When they return, Éva submits her story but the editors find it too critical of the regime. She quits in protest of her story being censored and pursues Lívia by writing her letters.
Eventually, Lívia returns to her and they decide to live together, but when Lívia tells her husband, he shoots her. Éva visits her in the hospital, but is rejected by Lívia. Depressed and alone, Éva tries to cross the border and commits suicide by slowly approaching a border guard.
Central to EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE’s narrative is the relationship between Lívia and Éva, with much of the discussion centered on their sexuality. While homosexuality was mostly absent from the screen in Eastern Europe, commentary about sexuality in general was pushed by many other directors such as Dušan Makavejev and Věra Chytilová, who dominated this issue in the 70’s. In contrast to these directors, Makk’s discussion is certainly conservative as commentary on ideas such as gay rights or their treatment is almost wholly absent from EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE. In fact, the only scenes that broach the subject involve the police, including a scene where a detective interviews Éva about Lívia being shot; he is more interested in how the couple engages in sex. In an interview, Makk says this scene comes from their own desire to understand lesbian relationships before principal shooting. They received the same response Éva gives in the scene and come to the understanding that the relationship between Éva and Lívia is no different from their own relationships.
While it’s true that their sexuality is not important in the message of the film, it’s the condition of their relationship in the context of the time period that drives the central theme of EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE. Homosexuality was a taboo subject in the 1980’s, but even more so in the 1950’s. It’s the impossibility and difficulty of this relationship between Éva and Lívia that is the focus of Makk. Writer Galgóczi uses this situation as a mirror to parallel the events of the 1956 Revolution, questioning how people can survive in such extreme emotional shifts. Lívia’s love of Éva is a deeply personal crisis because she is now uncertain of her identity. This is a feeling that was universally shared among Hungarians after the failed revolution, and was returning as Hungary and other communist states dealt with the global recession in the 1980’s.
EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE also uses Éva and Lívia relationship to discuss ideas of conformity and tolerance. These themes are brought up throughout the film usually during pivotal points of conflict in their relationship. In the scene where they visit the communal farm and go to the party, Lívia renews her question of her sexuality, choosing to dance with several men at the party and ignoring Éva. Their difficulty is there to highlight the difficulties of the communal farm and the problems it represents with its forced conformity. This idea is again repeated when Éva submits her article and her boss censors it against Éva’s wishes. Lívia has rejected Éva at the party, choosing to conform to social norms and again characters are forced to conform and tolerate the political climate.
Black and White
These dualities in EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE define the perspective of the characters that view the world as black or white. For Éva, she can’t live in a world without Lívia’s love and she can’t work for a job where she is forced to subvert any part of the truth. Lívia struggles with her identity, unable at times to break from the heavy handed conformity surrounding her. Makk and Galgóczi both recognize this situation and use the impossibility of the character’s situation to propose the idea of an alternate solution or finding a grey area that avoids outside influence.
In EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE, Makk does a superb job of capturing the atmosphere of love between Éva and Lívia. After the scene at the bar where Éva confesses her love, we watch as both characters wander a park and spend time alone on the bench. Their passion feels reassured until the police arrive to break up their privacy, with the idea of conformity crushing down on them. Their love allows them to forget this for a brief evening until the police threaten to tell Lívia’s husband and the more radical Éva is just arrested.
This outside influence enforcing a specific viewpoint is of course a part of the larger picture for Hungary. In the context of the 1950’s, it’s the suppression of the revolution and in the 1980’s it’s global economics oppressing the country. While this idea is not original in Eastern European cinema, or international cinema, what really emboldens this theme is the atmosphere Makk is able to create in EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE. Also, both actresses, Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak and Grazyna Szapolowska, do a phenomenal job with capturing the spirit of the relationship between Éva and Lívia.
Over a decade after SZERELEM, Makk again creates a masterful work in EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE that is able to critique both politics and social norms in a single film. As an audience, we are reminded that if the situation is unpleasant we should be free to seek another way to find our own happiness. Even if the situation feels impossible, being able to feel true to oneself helps to overcome the difficulty. EGYMÁSRA NÉZVE’s message still resonates today with social issues not dissimilar from those of 1982, so perhaps it’s best to revisit the film to see that there is always another way.∗