MOVIE REVIEW – A sketch film with a peculiar sense of humour is the first film by Dániel Zsótér Indi, which debuted on HBO Max on Saturday and is both a parody of The Twilight Zone (and similar mystical thrillers) and a good stab at Hungarian reality.
Although the COVID era is over (for now…), many of us are still somewhere under its psychological influence, and we all remember when we had to live through the agony of confinement due to the spread of the coronavirus. The Community-funded Quarantine Zone explores this bitter and, in hindsight, absurd period in the form of a grotesque sketch film, depicting human situations in a surreal, grotesque way.
A bit like the Twilight Zone…
The title itself is a reference to the classic series The Twilight Zone, but this Hungarian covid “version” is more of a grotesque parody than actual science fiction, with a particular humour woven into the absurd Hungarian reality. Perhaps the best way to describe this film is that it is as if the late György Szomjas had made a sci-parody of the classic Falfúró.
The various life situations are pinpoint accurate depictions of the frustrations, annoyances and dramas of being locked up with each other during COVID. Without spoiling too much, here are just a few examples: A mother who is excluded from the world of work and is annoyed when her child draws a whale instead of an elephant for a school project, a lonely grandmother who tries to get cynical carers to deal with a paranormal phenomenon she is experiencing by stuffing them with coconut rum balls, a terribly palm-wringing and annoying middle-manager clown who gets on the nerves of the protagonist, who is also in a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend and is going increasingly mad, when he should be doing the telecommuting, or the self-important, typically irritating influencer girl, who is captivated by her beauty but has extremely strange things happening to her body…
You can’t miss Cecilia Müller…
The images of life embedded in grotesque science fiction are for the most part extremely witty and the scenes are generally amusing and entertaining enough – apart from one or two forced passages. Aside from the aforementioned Twilight Zone, there are also influences from other classic sci-fi/horror filmmakers: for example, one of these “life pictures” was reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s body horror. The scenes are often dreamlike and in almost all cases it is clear what the poet was thinking, i.e. what life situation he was trying to portray – which makes The Quarantine Zone a little didactic at times. Fortunately, this is well counterbalanced by the film’s wry humour, which, for example, also cuts in with great flair on Cecilia Müller’s daily “life wisdom”, which has also become a kind of symbol of the Hungarian COVID era.
The various life situations are confected by László Muchichka (who, together with Zsótér, is a former video journalist for 24.hu and founder of Roboraptor), usually in a very funny, stake-necked style, which is also similar to the classic series and works strongly in the film’s favour.
If not perfect due to its somewhat didactic nature in places, The Quarantine Zone is still a great piece of filmmaking thanks to its wry, bourgeois humour and well-portrayed, great life images. It also deserves special praise for being a community-funded sci-fi spoof of a high quality, even if it is on a full-budget level.