Director: Dénes Nagy
Stars: Ferenc Szabó, Tamás Garbacz, László Bajkó
Starkly beautiful but a challenging watch, director Dénes Nagy’s accomplished debut, a WWII inaction picture, focuses mainly on the experience of one Hungarian officer in a unit charged with hunting down partisans for the Nazis while occupying a village in the occupied Soviet Union.
A memorably harsh opening sequence has Corporal Semetka (Szabó) and two of his fellow soldiers seizing a raft piloted by two local men carrying a deer which the soldiers proceed to hack up for their unit. Semetka is also the team’s semi-official photographer, and therefore witness to the unfurling situation. He is billeted with a local family, and while inexpressive and uncommunicative he is not unsympathetic to the family’s plight. When the soldiers are ambushed on patrol, Semetka is put in charge, but his empathetic nature indicates that he may not be the ideal choice as the situation deteriorates.
Made with unprofessional actors, the film boasts an extraordinary and all-too convincing gallery of craggy-faced stoic villagers and soldiers alike, with Semetka’s impenetrable façade and silent acquiescence to orders throwing up questions to the extent of his culpability in the horrors that occur. This lack of emoting coupled with the lack of on-screen incident will make this a demanding experience for some.
Cinematographer Tamas Dobos locates a dark fairytale beauty in the icy grey and blue-hued forest and in the villagers’ (naturally lit) shadowy abodes. One strkingly dreamlike sequence has Semetka coming across one of the villagers hiding in the lake, resembling a monochrome version of Millias’s ‘Ophelia’.
Natural Light is released theatrically and available to stream exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema on November 12th
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