Talpuk alatt fütyül a szél

Talpuk alatt fütyül a szél (The Wind Whistles Beneath their Feet) could best be described as Hungarian Once Upon a Time in the West. The director, György Szomjas, has taken the cinematic grammar of the “spagetti” western, particularly the mud and nihilistic world view of Django, and combined it with the rich tradition of the Hungarian cowboys, the horsemen of the Great Plain.

Whereas in Once Upon a Time in the West the end of the old west came in the form of the railroad, here the local landowners are having the peasants dig a canal across the plain. From the outset, we hear the local Sherriff warning the landowners that there will be serious problem if they interfere with the ancient order of the plains, but his concerns are dismissed. It’s not long before Gyurka, an outlaw put in jail by the sheriff, appears on the scene fresh out of jail and starts to take revenge on the men who betrayed him. It’s not long before he becomes the focal point for those cowboys wanting to retain the old ways.

I first saw this film about six years ago on TV when I was living in Hungary and was really struck by how well the western genre translated to a Hungarian setting. The classic themes of Once upon a time, such as the death of the old ways, honour, manhood and masculinity, are explored and the frank portrayal of violence is ever present.

One word of warning, a horse and a pig do get shot for real in this film, so you might want to avoid this one if you find that kind of thing upsetting. It is now available on DVD with English subtitles, although I suspect it might tot be too easy to get hold of. I picked my copy up when I was recently visiting Budapest.

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