copyright 2013, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
Jump Cut
, No. 55, fall 2013

Body memories, body cinema: the politics of multi-sensual counter-memory in György Pálfi’s Hukkle

by György Kalmár

There is probably no easier and quicker way of understanding the constructedness of history and collective memories than travelling. Changing location is equal to changing focus, perspective and significance. If you want to understand the US better, for example, you may go to Latin-America. For a better understanding of Britain you may go to India or Northern-Ireland. And in order to learn more about the Soviet Union’s role in history, you may visit the Eastern-European countries of the former “Eastern Bloc.” In other words, the “other,” (repressed and buried) history of the United States often resurfaces in Mexico, Vietnam, and Iraq; and the unofficial history of Soviet imperialism is partly written on Eastern-European interrogated bodies, unmarked gravestones and oral narratives. One only has to visit smaller countries, ex-colonies, losers of past wars, and one immediately understands that the world is a much more complex place than we are led to believe. These places are full of alternative historical narratives, counter-memories and a rich heritage of orally transmitted, fragmented historical knowledge that never makes into schoolbooks and “official” History.

Music, literature or film also often function as reservoirs for these unofficial heritages. Film, which establishes a direct sensuous, metonymical connection between the viewer and the objects filmed, often with only a very moderate degree of symbolic mediation, is especially valuable for such purposes. In the present paper I will mainly focus on the ways film may relate to historical narratives and collective memory, how it simultaneously preserves and produces counter-memories and counter-narratives.  Focusing mainly on György Pálfi’s award-winning Hungarian film Hukkle (2002), I will also attempt to investigate how – through film – one may remember events that the community has agreed on not to remember, and how a film’s visual style may evoke memories while bypassing the compromised fields of ideology, history, and the social-symbolic order.

Eastern-European cinema and counter-memory

The idea that history and memory may function in diverse ways in different cultures has a long trajectory in the social sciences and the humanities (see: Troebst 146). Apparently, remembering, and also the various kinds of identity-politics that it may support, is culture-specific. A recently opened exhibition at Kunsthalle, Budapest, that focuses on ideas of national identity in contemporary art is entitled What is Hungarian? Contemporary Perspectives and includes interviews with a dozen established Hungarian intellectuals. One of their recurring clichés is that Hungarian public opinion is always split, and all social issues become immediately appropriated by sectarian party politics. As one of the quotes in the “reading room” of the exhibition by Lajos Kossuth, Hungarian prime minister at the time of the 1848-49 uprising against the Habsburgs, points out:

“There is not a single issue in this country that would belong to the whole nation; here even the holiest cause can only be an issue of party-politics” (see also: Gulyás 23).

Apparently, for Hungarians the habit of resistance, opposition and swimming against the current is so strong that they do not feel comfortable swimming with the current at all even if it would take them where they would like to go. Swimming with the current of official ideology or hegemonic political power is suspicious whatever that ideology or power may be; on the other hand, resistance, dispute and dissent are common ways of relating to the grand narratives of ideology and history. The hot peppers (paprikas) on the poster of the What is Hungarian? exhibition clearly refer to this spicy attitude that may be both enjoyable and painful, sometimes simultaneously.

Apparently, in case of Eastern Europe, one of the most significant factors influencing memory-politics is the region’s frequently evoked tragic and traumatic past. Its peoples have often found themselves attacked, conquered, exploited or colonized by larger neighbouring countries and rising empires from the Mongols, through the Ottoman-Turkish and the Habsburgs to the Soviets. One of the results of this situation is that people often find collective memories and grand historical narratives (something that Hungarians definitely invented centuries before Lyotard) incredulous. The commonplace that History is written by the victors has a particularly bitter after-taste in Hungary. The narratives of official History have regularly been appropriated, constructed, re-fashioned by occupying forces and politically interested groups, imposed upon people by state authorities and institutions. Since these historical narratives were (and are) often means of ideological oppression, people in the region usually must remember against the grain in order to establish some form of identity and historical consciousness that they can call – more or less – their own. Consequently, the lack of grand (idealizing and totalizing) historical narratives typically becomes filled in by what Jan Assmann calls communicative memories, based on family anecdotes, local legends and personal experience. These are typically noninstitutional, “not supported by any institutions of learning, transmission, or interpretation,” not “summoned or celebrated on special occasions” and “not formalized and stabilized by any forms of material symbolization” (Assmann 18). Thus such communicative memories are much more appropriate for sustaining identities of resistance and rebellion.

As Peter Meusburger puts it,

“underprivileged and suppressed minorities or losers of conflicts try to hold firm against the official political narratives by cultivating their countermemories and advocating re-interpretations of history” (58).

As I will indicate later, film often functions as a medium in which such alternative histories and counter-memories can manifest themselves. As a medium that does not necessarily have to say, or clearly pronounce everything, film in Hungary from the 1960s on (when the “socialist” dictatorship was less strict) became a field wherein state censorship could be bypassed and political systems criticized. The best example of this trend is probably Péter Bacsó’s The Witness (A Tanú, 1969), a satirical film about the hard-liner communist days of the 1950s and their pre-arranged political trials. After 1989, when communist dictatorship ended, there might no longer be the same oppressing outer power to counter, yet, as Hukkle will show, film has still often served as a reservoir for that which cannot be publicly spoken. (For a more detailed analysis of Hungarian cinematic representations of the past see: Strausz).

Another important characteristic feature of Hungarian memo-politics is what Cooper and Jones (in a general Eastern-European context) refer to as “the co-presence of patriot/traitor narratives” (6), one aspect of which includes a lack of unambiguous historical figures. Most historical figures, events, or places within memory are contested, perceived in more or less different ways by people of different political affiliations (professionals included). Commonly the very same figure is staged as a hero by one historical narrative, as a victim by another, and as a traitor by yet another. In addition, idealization through narrative is problematic: a fact that obviously has far-reaching consequences regarding both identity-politics and filmmaking.[1] [open endnotes in new window]

Hungarian public communication and the larger field of collective memory are saturated by taboos, silences, lies and historical minefields. Although these topics preoccupy much of the population, they are never addressed (except by some political extremists), for they are generally considered to be too dangerous to touch. Public figures who address these issues, furthermore, can very easily become stigmatized and outcast.

In such a context, counter-memory, individual recollections, family anecdotes, bodily memories and communicative memory in general may become more important than in case of “more fortunate” nations, where identification with the official national history and its ideology might not bring up as many traumatic memories for most people, as it would in Hungary and other (smaller) countries with stormy pasts behind them. In this respect, the Hungarian situation is much closer to that of the minorities in larger nation-states. Hopefully my application of the terminology of intercultural cinema to contemporary Hungarian cinematic phenomena later in this paper may reveal some productive insights resulting from this analogy.

The backside of History

Locating memories at such non-discursive, material surfaces as the body seems to be a central concern of director György Pálfi. While in his later film Taxidermia (2006), this use of “the body as memory site” is mainly connected to the human body and used to comment on the “dominant political ideologies” of the past (Strausz), Hukkle places the human body in the context of phenomenologically perceived nature, and it sets its characters (both humans, animals and plants) on the margins of history, distanced from political ideologies and historical narratives.

In the Hungarian context of abundance of over-politicized accounts of history, Hukkle is an odd one out: it creates a kind of depoliticised counter-memory. According to Lipsitz, counter memory is

“a way of remembering and forgetting that starts with the local, the immediate, and the personal. Unlike historical narratives that begin with the totality of human existence and then locate specific actions and events within that totality, counter-memory starts with the particular and then builds… [it] looks to the past for hidden histories excluded from dominant narratives… [and] forces revision … by supplying new perspectives.” (Lipsitz 213)

Indeed, Lipsitz’s words about counter-memory characterise György Pálfi’s Hukkle in a most appropriate way. The film starts with the local: Hukkle is set in a remote Hungarian village. It also starts with the immediate and the particular. It shows the daily events of life: milk being poured, a garden gate opened and closed, a goose eating grass through the holes of the fence, a girl looking at a lady bug on her hand, an old woman picking flowers in a meadow, a cat enjoying the sun (see pictures). The spectator may get the feeling that Hukkle does not even want to build from here. It takes time till one realizes that there is a narrative, or at least there can be a narrative, established among the various pictures of plants, animals, inanimate objects and people. Hukkle also lacks dialogue: though sometimes we may see people talking to each other, it is always in the distance, we can never hear clearly what they are saying. There is no extra-diegetic music to conjure up emotions and strengthen identification: the void left by audible dialogue and music is filled by the noises of everyday life. The pictures of human beings are placed in the context of shots of nature: plants growing, animals doing what they do day by day. I will argue and attempt to show through the analysis of the film’s cinematic language, that Hukkle performs a revaluation of the human being, a dislocation of the human subject (as the subject of the gaze or subject of the story). It turns against the ideological and cinematic constructions of humanism, and connects the spectator with personal and collective memories in ways that bypass History, ideology and the symbolic.

In order to understand why a film may try to avoid dialogue, ideology or symbolic meaning, it is useful to look at the traces of a narrative left scattered in the film text. Hukkle is not utterly without narrative meaning, and the traces of the story that the spectator may (or may not) uncover actually lead to traumatic historical events. What one may realize during the film is that in this village women poison men on a regular basis, without any discernible motivation. They make, distribute, and feed the poison in a most natural manner, the same way as geese eat grass or a mole eats worms. These women kill and then bury men without any “human” motivation or feeling. In one telling scene we see a mole in its underground paths, moving, eating a worm; then we hear the sound of a hoe and we see the “midwife,” the elderly woman (who makes the poison for the whole village), working in her garden. She finds the mole, unearths it, hits it with the hoe, then throws it to her dog, who eats it. Except for the worm, all the characters of the scene are black: the mole, the black-dressed woman, and her big dog (see pictures). We see a chain of killing and death, in which the human being is only one link. Death is natural, there is no big deal about it. Our “characters” kill and die without tears, anger or drama; death is part of ordinary life.

The dark historical memory that this series of murders may evoke is usually referred to in Hungary (when it is mentioned) as the “Tiszazug” murders. The Tiszazug was an extremely poor area of Hungary, where in the 1920s the authorities revealed a strange and horrifying murder case. For at least a decade women (in several villages) kept killing people with arsenic. The murderers were exclusively women, the victims were either newborn babies (practically, poisoning babies was a form of birth control), or elderly men, who were not “economically useful” for the community any longer. According to the historian Gábor Gyáni:

“The investigations revealed such a great number of arsenic murders that the authorities refrained from pursuing the case till the final results, in fright of its final proportions. During the exhumations conducted in the cemeteries of Nagyrév and Tiszakürt, 162 person’s bodies were found who died of arsenic poisoning. After this, the authorities decided not to continue the investigation in other villages of the Tiszazug area, but tried to close the increasingly exasperating case as quickly as possible. In order to avoid notice as much as possible, the murders were treated separately in the court proceedings, thereby attempting to belittle the actual dimensions of the case. As a consequence, the lawsuits were delayed for several years. There could not be any doubt, however, that the actual number of people murdered in the Tiszazug area could reach thousands.” (Gyáni 2)

One of the frightening and telling aspects of the case is that probably the men knew very well that they were being poisoned. The arsenic was given to them five or six times till it killed them, and it is likely that the men knew after the first or second portion what was going on, yet they did not go either to the police or to the doctor but accepted their fate and kept on eating the dishes that their wives put on the table. Apparently, most of the village communities knew about the unnatural causes of these deaths, yet nobody talked about them (see: Gyáni).

It is this (more or less repressed) historical memory that Hukkle deals with: in a sense, the film fills the void left by the silences of official history. This counter-memory is accompanied by a non-conventional, slightly experimental cinematic language that not only challenges “official” history, traditional story-telling and genre cinema, but also defies some of the ideological foundations of our view of history and subjectivity. From the point of view of the present study, the most significant challenges concern the traditions of humanism and idealism.

The way the Quattrocento’s monocular perspective was combined with particular cinematic techniques (the subjective shot, for example) and formations of subjectivity and meaning in the 20th century so as to produce cinematic and narrative space has been analysed in detail by film theoreticians as Stephen Heath or Laura Mulvey (see: Heath). Here I am only going to mention those features of the film that break with this ideologically laden tradition.

The first thing that strikes one’s eye is that the shots used in the representation of human beings tend to be different from what one is used to: typically, the camera either goes close to the human figure, in extreme close-ups, or goes too far for us to see the individual characteristics of the body or the face (see pictures). Medium shots – which follow the heritage of Renaissance portrait-painting, framing the person’s upper body, staging the human figure as central focus-point of artistic representation – are conspicuously rare in this film.

The other similar, and ideologically equally significant stylistic characteristic is that the human form is often not in central perspective, but rather an accidental detail, or part of a bigger picture. Moreover, subjective shots are very rare: the human being is very seldom the subject of the gaze. Apparently, the film tries to teach us to look at the life of the village and its surroundings from a non-human perspective (see picture).

Hukkle seems to create a film language that successfully breaks with the cinematic tradition informed by the ideology of individualism. Both the modern form of individualism and the iconography of human beings that cinema traditionally applies originate in the Renaissance, which clearly mark their ideological interconnectedness. The independence, freedom, autonomy and self-reliance of the individual, its role as central figure of the modern world view, its capacity for emancipation, self-fashioning and the morally good, its ability to see its own interest and act accordingly, that is, the classical characteristics of the modern individual (who is also the typical “hero” of films) are all consistently undermined by Hukkle. The characters (especially the male ones) apparently do not think, argue, fight for their lives, question their wife’s decisions; they do not express opinions, struggle for goals, turn their suffering into art or philosophy; they simply do their everyday duties and die when others consider that appropriate. The women, on the other hand, do their work, perform their household duties, murder and bury their husbands with the same natural, affectless attitude. We do not see tears, anger or anxiety. Only – as the caption on the film’s poster says – life, death and hiccups. As Anikó Imre rightly states:

“There is nothing apparently tragic about this all-consuming universal digestive rhythm. No character in the film shows any remorse, sorrow, or other emotion” (209).

The old man (who seems to be a bachelor, living in his run-down little house, sitting on his bench in front of the house, watching as people, animals, life and death come and go) may express the whole film’s attitude. He does not speak a word, he only hiccups and observes everything without judgement or action.

Obviously, from the point of view of gender all this could be (and was) read as a symptom of “an impending, full-blown crisis of masculinity” (Imre 179) and of “female monstrosity” (211), and probably the issue of gender is indeed the point where Hukkle gets closest to any kind of political meaning. However, what interests me most here is the general destabilization and dislocation of the discourses of history, ideology and humanist individualism by an “aesthetic strategy [that] seems to resist the elitist hegemony of ideal meaning” (Imre 211).

Hukkle takes the spectator to the margins of individualism, humanism and patriarchy, to a liminal space on the margins of history, which also happens to be a small Hungarian village in the middle of nowhere. One cannot be sure where and when exactly the film is set, and this any-place-whatsoever and any-time-whatsoever quality matches the rewriting of the above-mentioned ideological constructions perfectly. However, it is not only through these cinematic vehicles and techniques that this ideological-cinematic dislocation is achieved. The film’s lack of emotional drama, psychological depth and narrative story-telling is compensated for by the evocation of sensuous impressions and memory-traces, which (again) take the spectator into a rich world outside ideology, history and official politics of memory.

Sensuous memory

In the first scene of Hukkle (right after the main credits), we see a long shot of a valley and a tiny village in the early morning of a spring day. Together with this establishing shot, the hiccups begin. The next shot shows an iron milk-pot in close-up, and we can see how milk is poured into it. At the next hiccup, a little milk is spilled. We see an old man in the kitchen of an old village house, surrounded by objects, most of which probably did not change much in the last few centuries. He walks out with the pot and sits down on the little wooden bench in front of the house. As he moves out, we see in close-ups the flap-hinge of the creaking garden gate with its age-old handle that the old hand must have touched countless times; we see the ants running around the bench-post that moves rhythmically with each hiccup (see pictures). These shots do not support storytelling: they are more phenomenological than functional or narrative, which is further emphasised by the amplified noises accompanying the pictures. (It may not be by accident that Hukkle is the first Hungarian film with a Dolby-Digital soundtrack.) The “story” does not require such details, noises and sensuousness: our attention is guided towards the “life-world” (in the phenomenological sense) of the village.

To many Hungarians, these images evoke childhood memories: the scenes of village life, summers at the grandparents in the country-side, the morning milking of cows, the sight, sound and smell of old wooden furniture, spring gardens, the touch of the old iron handle of a country wooden gate. Through evoking these memories, Hukkle connects to a rich sensuous strata of memory, which is often only loosely integrated into the “official” linear narrative of our lives.

In her influential study of Eastern-European cinemas, Identity-Games, Anikó Imre makes an observation crucial for the present study: she establishes a logical link between Eastern-European memory-politics and the aesthetic practice of such directors as Svankmajer and Pálfi:

“Svankmajer’s and Pálfi’s concern with eliciting the repressed memories of silent people by interrogating the historical layers preserved by objects has the same archaeological quality that Marks, following Deleuze’s notion of the archaeology of the image, attributes to hybrid cinema. Such a cinema confounds official history, private recollection, and simple fiction.” (215)

Imre is referring here to Laura U. Marks’s ground-breaking book on intercultural cinema, The Skin of the Film, which calls attention to the multisensory potentials of the cinematic image, to the way the image may connect the spectator to a whole world of sensuous experience.

“By appealing to one sense in order to represent the experience of another, cinema appeals to the integration and commutation of sensory experience within the body. Each audiovisual image meets a rush of other sensory associations. Audiovisual images call up conscious, unconscious, and nonsymbolic associations with touch, taste, and smell, which themselves are not experienced as separate. Each image is synthesized by a body that does not necessarily divide perceptions into different sense modalities.” (Imre, Marks ?? 222)

Like Proust’s narrator upon tasting the Madeleine that he used to eat on Sunday mornings in his childhood in Combray, the spectator of these strongly evocative images may also be overcome by a rush of involuntary sensuous memories, which “call up conscious, unconscious, and nonsymbolic associations with touch, taste and smell.” What happens in Hukkle, similarly to In Search of Lost Time, is an invasion of the senses (so as to use Proust’s expression), which the spectator cannot completely control. We are definitely not in the realms of the kind of controlled visual space of monocular perspective that is created by classical narrative cinema. In Hukkle our perspective on, distance from and mastery over the images, events and evoked sensuous memories are undermined by the aesthetics of sensuous overload and a peculiar, amusing cinematography (by Gergely Pohárnok) that works at each and every point against the ideology of humanism and generally against human mastery over meaning. The milk pot, the wooden garden gate’s iron handle, the lady bug on one’s hand may all function as (what Marks calls) recollection objects, something she defines as an “irreducibly material object that encodes collective memory” (77). These recollection objects evoke multi-sensorial memory traces and establish symbolically non-mediated relations with the past.

Apropos of similar tendencies in intercultural cinema, Marks establishes the term “haptic visuality” (haptic coming from the Greek word to touch) in order to denote the sort of non-conventional aesthetics, another kind of relation to images, that she contrasts with traditional, “optical visuality:”

“The ideal relationship between viewer and image in optical visuality tends to be one of mastery, in which the viewer isolates and comprehends the objects of vision. The ideal relationship between viewer and image in haptic visuality is one of mutuality, in which the viewer is more likely to lose herself in the image, to lose her sense of proportion.” (184)

In other words, traditional “optical” visuality (as it is analyzed by Heath and others) is based on distance from the image (which is also necessary for perspective), mastery over the image, control over the visual space, and is characterized by keeping boundaries intact, and by the emphasis on narrative and symbolic meaning. In contrast, haptic visuality is based on proximity, a loss of control and mastery over the image, a richness of sensorial impressions, and is characterised by unclear boundaries. Whereas in optical visuality we see “things,” that is, we know what objects we see and why they may be important for the story, in haptic visuality the multisensorial impressions overshadow symbolic and narrative meaning.

When the camera shows these haptic close-ups for several seconds, the spectator may not be sure what “thing” it is that one sees; rather the surface, colour and sensuous qualities of the images, that is, their non-symbolic meaning, dominate. It takes time for the spectator to realize that what one sees is, for example, sheep or fish. Sometimes the “object” moves, sometimes the camera cuts back, and then we may recognize “what” we see. However, the film typically gives us several seconds to watch and listen without knowing “what” we see and hear, thereby establishing a purely phenomenological (and often haptic) immediacy with sensuous phenomena outside the realm of concepts. “Things” – that is, objects socially defined and endowed with symbolic meaning – are recognized later, after this time of phenomenological/aesthetic contemplation, if recognized at all. Hukkle is, therefore, not only set on the margins of history, but also on the margins of (symbolic) meaning. Contra Derrida and film semiotics, Hukkle seems to manifest that there is an outside to text, concepts, meaning and signification. It offers a realm without words, a thickly sensuous world that activates the spectator’s senses, past impressions and memory traces without passing through (what Friedrich Kittler calls) the bottleneck of the symbolic.

This way, Hukkle successfully creates a world full of memories that nevertheless bypasses the ideologically compromised realms of history, humanism and optical visuality. It remembers, but it does not remember “historical” events, it may contain traits of a story, but it is not necessarily a story seen by human eyes, it is rich in meaning, yet this meaning does not necessarily belong to the symbolic order of language, and definitely not to the all-seeing, all-controlling gaze of a (presumed) symbolic Other.

Flat history, flat cinema, flat meaning

“It was not the film’s awfully deep meaning, or its unprecedented authenticity of the representation of reality that made Hukkle one of the best films, if not the best film, of the 33rd Hungarian Film Week” – remarked one of the film’s Hungarian critics (see: Böszörményi). This sentence, simple as it may seem, points out one of the most crucial characteristic features of Hukkle: its break with a traditional cinematic aesthetics that usually favors representation, authenticity, truthfulness and profoundness of meaning. From the point of view of the rebellious politics of counter-memory practiced widely in Eastern-Europe, traditional, hegemonic aesthetics may easily seem tainted with ideologies with which one cannot identify without complicity with the oppressive political forces that systematically appropriate them. In a post-deconstructive intellectual context, such terms as “depth” appear as tropes sustaining a metaphysically-laden ideology of the aesthetic that tends to inscribe all sensuous impressions back into the supreme Logos of symbolic meaning (see: de Man). Accordingly, in a world where depth, meaning, history and truthful representation are highly politicized concepts, the lack of “depth” and “truthful representation” may actually be productive strategies.

The case of Hukkle, its system of representation and its tendency to undermine hegemonic discourses (of memory-politics, storytelling and the cinematic representation of human beings)seems to make it a par excellence example of what Laurent Berlant calls the “flatness” of traumatic experience and what she refers to as the presence of the traumatic in everyday experience. According to Berlant, modernity tends to have a dramatic approach. It is obsessed with the “depth” (of the psyche, of meaning etc.), and favors melodramatic expressions of past traumas. In this tradition (that probably affects most art forms), high intensity equals high importance. Berlant, however, calls attention to another kind of tradition, one associated with flatness. This cinematic style is characterized by the casualization of emotion, underperformance, diminished activity, inexpressivity, a lack of on-screen affect, and non-melodramatic responses. Berlant specifically focuses on cases in which silence may or may not stand for a repressed trauma.

Berlant’s description of the possible flatness of cinematic representation perfectly suits Hukkle’s stylistic qualities. The film never turns into a murder mystery in which one must find the secret causes of these murders, human beings do not appear as enigmas with a deep reservoir of (maybe unconscious) meaning, and the images of the film do not become symptoms of another, secret, hidden truth. These images may or may not tell another story of deep feeling, anger, frustration, guilt and desperation. As the critical reception of the film clearly shows, this peculiarly constructed film-text allows for (at least) two different types of interpretations: a deep and a flat one. I would argue that these two interpretations correspond with what – following Marks – one may call an optical and a haptic reading, respectively.

The optical/deep interpretation would take the film’s slightly experimental formal qualities, its lack of clear narrative, its nonsymbolic meanings and sensuousness simply as a bait that only increases the sense of mystery and narrative desire. This reading would follow the well-known, good old modernist/ psychoanalytical paradigm that supposes that the more the surface of a text/film/dream resists conceptual understanding, the deeper its meaning must be. The less sense it makes, the more we have to dig, in order to reconstruct the other, secret, hidden, deep, latent story behind the apparently nonsensical cover story/ manifest scene. The haptic/flat reading, however, would not make this assumption of a hidden, deep, “true” meaning. It would rather focus (as I have mostly done in this essay) on the ways these “flat” surfaces affect the spectator, how their sensuousness works, how they evoke a multi-sensorial experience, and how they may evoke sensorial, bodily memories lying outside narrative, history and symbolization. Let me make it clear: the film does allow for an optical/deep interpretation, many of its shots of animals and nature may be read allegorically, and – paraphrasing Nietzsche – I would even venture to say that probably it is impossible not to desire (more or less) totalized meaning and narrative coherence. The film’s novelty, however, is due to its haptic strategies that may evade such ideologically and metaphysically charged reading strategies. It is also through this possibility of a flat, haptic, sensuous film-text that Hukkle becomes an instructive example of Eastern-European politics of identity and memory.


1. The above mentioned exhibition What is Hungarian? Contemporary Perspectives offers several examples of this peculiar Hungarian hermeneutics of controversy. The same historical events and figures were often represented as parts of heroic nationalistic narratives and (often at the next picture) in ironic, parodistic or even sarcastic ways. It is also telling, as the curator Gábor Gulyás points out in an interview, that the exhibition was simultaneously condemned for being irredentist by a leftist liberal intellectual, and as an anti-Hungarian provocation by a right-wing intellectual (See: Gulyás 23-24). [return to text]

Works cited

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Berlant, Laurent. “Structures of Unfeeling: Mysterious Skin.” Keynote lecture at the 3rd International RHSS Conference in Zadar, Croatia, on 6th Spetember, 2012.

Böszörményi Gábor. Hukkle. Mozinet. http://www.mozinet.hu/index.nof?o=&nyelvid=1&k1=1&k2=43&filmid=1260

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Gulyás Gábor. “Nemzeti minimum.” Demokrata, XVI./33. Aug. 15, 2012. http://www.demokrata.hu/ujsagcikk/nemzeti_minimum2/

Gyáni Gábor. “Arzénes asszonyok. Rendhagyó sorozatgyilkosság a Horthy-korban. Rubicon, 2008/5. Online: http://www.rubicon.hu/magyar/oldalak/arzenes_asszonyok_rendhagyo_sorozatgyilkossag_a_horthy_korban/

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Imre Anikó. Identity Games: Globalization and the Transformation of Media Cultures in the New Europe. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.

Lipsitz, George. Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990.

De Man, Paul. Aesthetic Ideology. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996.

Marks, Laura U. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2000.

Meusburger, Peter. “Knowledge, Cultural Memory, and Politics.” Peter Meusburger, Michael Heffernan, Edgar Wunder (eds), Cultural Memories: The Geographical Point of View, Springer 2011. 51-69.

Strausz László. “Archaeology of Flesh: History and Body-Memory in Taxidermia.” Jump Cut, No. 53, summer 2011. http://www.ejumpcut.org/currentissue/strauszTaxidermia/index.html

Troebst, Stefan, “Halecki Revisited: Europe’s Conflicting Cultures of Remembrance” Peter Meusburger, Michael Heffernan, Edgar Wunder (eds), Cultural Memories: The Geographical Point of View, Springer 2011. 145-154.

What is Hungarian? Contemporary Answers. Exhibition. Kunsthalle, Budapest. Curator: Gábor Gulyás. 2 August – 14 October, 2012.

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