Adoption - Adoption(Blu Ray) [Second Run - 2021]
Adoption is a Hungarian drama from the mid-1970s- it focuses on the relationship between a widowed middle-aged woman and a troubled teenage girl. Filmed in starkly moody black and white, the film is subtlety powerful, at points decidedly moving, and surprisingly undated- which you can’t say for many films from the ’70s. Here from Second Run is a region free blu ray release of the picture, which certainly stands as one of the quietly impactful and bleakly compelling dramas I’ve seen in some time.
Adoption ( Örökbefogadás) appeared in 1975- and it was directed/ co-written by Budapest born Márta Mészáros. This was her fifth feature film, though between the mid 50’s and early 70’s she helmed around twenty documentary shorts- which you can certainly see in Adoption's fly on wall/ doc look. The film is carefully paced, though never slow- it runs at just under the one hour and a half mark, and it's a picture that is quietly powerful/ emotional, yet it never dumbs down or results to twee sentimentality.
The film focuses on Kata(Katalin Berek)- a mid 40's woman, who some years ago was widowed- she works in a wood processing factory and is having an affair with a married man Jóska(László Szabó)who has two children. The film opens with a surprisingly bright -yet- haunting vibe and flute cue- but fairly soon this disappears with most of the film been unscored. We first meet Kata as she rises to her alarm on a grey Hungarian early morning- showering, and ready herself for work. Her life seems to unfold each day in a fairly predictable manner- work, seeing her married boyfriend, making frames and other wooden items in her personal workshops, sleeping and eating. So she decides she wants to have a baby, visiting her doctor for a health check-up, then asking her boyfriend if he will give her the child she craves…he refuses. One day, when she’s busy machining some wood in her workshop- a group of late-teen girls from a local home for troubled youngster. One of the girls Anna(Gyöngyvér Vigh) takes Kata aside, asking if her and her boyfriend can come and live with her- she offers rent, but Kata declines saying she doesn’t want the hassle.
Some days later Kata is visited at her home by one of Anna’s friends, who believed she was now living with Kata- she tells she is not, but just before the friend leaves she reads her a troubling letter that the home wouldn’t let her send to her parents- clearly this is impactful on Kata, and when Anna appears at her house later she offers Anna a bed for the night. From here a relationship develops between the two women- Kata a seemingly tuff and life battered mid-age woman, and Anna- a stern and seemingly troubled young woman on the cusp of adulthood.
The film shifts between the barren and autumn glumness of Kata house, the busy and dusty processing factory where she works- with brief visits to the crowded home where Anna lived, and moody shots of the Hungarian landscape. Both leads are perfectly placed and wholly believable in their roles- and the small supporting cast is also very good too, with many having world-worn/ tried complexions. I’d say you can certainly see that this film was an influence on the likes of Bela Tarr, with its stark-pared back drama and shots of barren landscapes- but Mészáros of course adds in a very strong feminine edge to the proceedings. Adoption is most certainly a glumly spell-binding film, that pulls you deep into its world of oppressed/ yet simmering under the surface emotion.
Moving onto this new Blu Ray- and we get a 4k restoration of the film- this is wonderfully clear, crisp, and defined in its picture. On the extras side we get a just over four-minute introduction from Márta Mészáros- here she talks about how the film is important to her, how it was popular worldwide, and it’s a rather authentic look of solo living that many Hungarians have. We get a nineteen-minute on-screen interview with her from 2006- this was for an Indian film festival where her films were was been shown, and it’s a good/ worthy general interview- with the questions moving from the often pessimistic tone of her work, how she funds her films, Hungarian film in the early 2000s, and how she puts together her own pictures. As with all of Second Runs releases, the set comes with a glossy inlay booklet- this runs for sixteen pages, it features a new seven-page write-up about the film from journalists Carmen Gray, full film credits, and a few nicely moody/ ponent stills from the film.
Adoption is a compelling study of feminine relationships, which is still as relevant and powerful today, as it was when it was originally released, coming on fifty years ago. If you enjoy authentic and well-made drama with a stark-if-hopeful unfold, you’ll very much want to pick this up-and once again Second Run of done a highly classy job on the reissue, the great 4k print, and the extras.