Another Way Review

Hungary, 1958. Eva (Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak) is a young politically-motivated journalist who starts a job at a periodical called The Truth. There she meets Livia (Grazyna Szapolowska), a married woman whom Eva is immediately attracted to.

Hungarian cinema was subject to less censorship than its counterparts in Czechoslovakia and Poland, but even so Károly Makk’s Another Way met with opposition in its home country and Makk came under pressure to make changes. Not only was its subject matter politically sensitive but it was also the first film from Eastern Europe to deal with homosexuality. Makk, however, had a reputation in the West due largely to his 1971 film Love (also released on DVD by Second Run) and Another Way was shown, in its uncut form, in competition at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. It won the Best Actress award for Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak, and went on to be commercially released in the UK and USA.

Based on a novella by Erzsebet Galgoczi , Another Way is an involving drama that packs a punch. The story is told in flashback, and we know from the start that the film will not end well. Makk explicitly links political oppression with the sexual variety; the pressure on Livia, the weaker of the couple, from time to time breaks up the love affair. As a gay film, you have to make allowances for the film’s age: Eva and Livia are too well drawn to be simply stereotypes, but they do fall into standard butch and femme lesbian types. Despite being physically smaller, Eva is shown with a fondness for uniform-like clothing, has short hair and is more hard-headed than the more overtly feminine, emotionally irresolute Livia. The film isn’t explicit, though it still has a rather strict 18 certificate from the BBFC. (Eva’s blunt answer to the question of what lesbians do in bed might have something to do with this.)

The two leads give fine performances. Incidentally, both actresses are actually Polish and their dialogue in this Hungarian-language film is dubbed: by Ildikó Bánsági (Eva) and Judit Hernádi (Livia). Grazyna Szapolowska is best known for her work with Krzysztof Kieslowski: No End and A Short Film About Love. Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak has continued to work in Polish films, though none of them appear to have been commercially released in the UK.

Another Way is given a somewhat soft and grainy anamorphic transfer in its intended aspect ratio of 1.66:1. There’s not really much to say here: close ups look fine, longer shots lack a little detail, and how much an issue this is will depend on how unforgiving your equipment is. It’s certainly still quite watchable: I’ve only seen the film on TV some twenty years ago, so I’ll assume that this is the way the film is intended to look.

According to my amp (and PowerDVD’s information display on my PC) the soundtrack here is surround-encoded Dolby Digital 2.0. That said, it played virtually continuously as mono through my centre speaker, with only a faint use of ambience (such as trees rustling in the wind) coming out of the surround speakers. Given the film’s age, I’d be very surprised if the original soundtrack wasn’t mono. As the two leading actresses are dubbed, the lack of lipsynch is noticeable in places, but you soon get used to it.There are twelve chapter stops and the disc is encoded for all regions.

On the disc is a short introduction by Károly Makk (running 8:11, in 4:3). He describes how he met Erzsebet Glagocsi in a screenwriting class he was taken, and how her novella was a perfect way to describe the events of 1956 (the country’s attempted uprising against Communism), which many Hungarian films of the 1970s had tried to do. Makk’s co-director had a lesbian friend whom he asked for technical advice – and as Makk says, the policeman’s stupid questions in the film were their own stupid questions! Makk speaks in his native Hungarian, and optional English subtitles are provided.

The booklet provided with the DVD features an article on the film by Andrew James Horton (originally published in different form in Central Europe Review), along with a credits list.

A film like this, an award-winning arthouse release of the early 1980s, can too easily slip into obscurity, after a limited run in cinemas followed by usually just a single showing on terrestrial TV. (At least in this case it did have a video release from Arthouse, but that was ten years ago.) Once again, Second Run are to be commended for giving films like this a DVD release. Picture and sound quality are good, the extras well thought out, and the price affordable. Long may they continue.

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