Miklos Jancso Dies at 92; Made Stylized Films of War and Tyranny in Hungary
Miklos Jancso, a Hungarian filmmaker who used episodes from his nation’s history to create critically praised parables of war and oppression, died on Friday. He was 92.
His death was announced by the Association of Hungarian Film Artists, which gave no other details, The Associated Press reported. Mr. Jancso, whose full name is pronounced MEE-klosh YAWN-cho, directed films for more than 50 years, earning his international reputation early in his career with a handful of films distinct for both style and substance. He became known for his long takes and complex camera movements resulting in beautiful but cool and distant visual effects, which often made scenes of violent or degrading oppression especially chilling.
“The Round-Up” (1965), set in a remote Hungarian plain in the 1860s, depicts the cold tyranny of an Austrian regime determined to snuff out the vestiges of a failed peasant revolt. With spare dialogue and a nonlinear narrative, it presents a Kafkaesque picture of authoritarianism on a small scale. Many critics saw it as a commentary on the 1956 Hungarian revolt against the Soviet Union.
“This film isn’t just about 1956,” Mr. Jancso said in a 2003 interview for Kinoeye, an online magazine about European film. “The film is about the fact that there are people who want to be free and people who are oppressing them. The oppressors always use the same methods. In the places where there is no freedom — Turkey, Iran, China — it’s a very simple equation.”
His film “The Red and the White” (1967) depicts Hungarians fighting on the side of Russian Bolsheviks against the Czarists during the Russian Revolution in 1919. A. H. Weiler, a critic for The New York Times, called the film “stark and memorable proof of the callous bestiality of war and the towering talent of Miklos Jancso.”
And in “Red Psalm,” for which Mr. Jancso won the best director award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, a 19th-century peasant revolt is presented with lush beauty, almost as a sensual ballet. (He did not shy from female nudity in his films.) The film was composed of only 26 shots, a fraction of the number used in an ordinary feature-length film.
“To make up the difference, the camera moves and people move back and forth and in large or small circles,” Roger Greenspun of The Times wrote, “and I suppose it is right to say — as everybody says — that a Jancso film is not so much directed as choreographed.”
Mr. Jancso was born to a Hungarian father and a Romanian mother in Vac, north of Budapest, on Sept. 27, 1921. He studied law before entering film school in Budapest. In the 1950s, in Soviet-controlled Hungary, he made newsreels. He later directed documentaries before turning to feature films. For a time he was also a theater director.
Mr. Jancso received lifetime achievement awards from the Cannes Film Festival in 1979, the Venice Film Festival in 1990 and the Budapest Film Festival in 1994.
His survivors include his third wife, Zsuzsa Csakany, and four children, The A.P. said.
Mr. Jancso once said that moving from nonfiction to fiction films had been “very easy, really.”
“All the newsreels we made were fiction anyway,” he added. “They were lies, and I always knew they were lies. But they were done in the manner of making a feature film, as everything had to be staged and directed. It breaks your heart to make things like that, because they were so untrue.”