Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review of 'Johanna'

Watched on a laptop from a library-rented DVD, this is one of the strangest cinematic experiences I've had for a while. Although none of the blurb and reviews say so, this is an opera, sort of. It's entirely sung, though there aren't what you'd call songs - just like an opera, then. The actors' voices are actually performed by others who presumably can sing better.

It's Hungarian, with all the melancholia that I would expect - I know there are a number of Magyar humourists, but somehow comedy doesn't seem to pervade the national culture. It's loosely based on Joan of Arc, apparently, though the eponymous Johanna is as much a martyred Jesus-figure as a Joan-figure. It's shot in murky colour in the tunnels underneath a hospital - there don't seem to be any windows or daylight in this place. A few of the scenes reminded me of the tunnels under the St George hospital in Barcelona, recently reopened as a monument. It looks pretty much like a nightmare - some scenes are redolent of the early episodes of 'Being Human', with blood and darkness.

Not a waste of time, but not what you'd call enjoyable either.

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