‘Explanation for Everything’ explores the tensions of a polarized Hungarian society


• Filmmaker Gábor Reisz will present this drama competing in the Official Feature Films Section at 8:15 p.m. at Cine Yelmo Las Arenas Screen 6

• The feature film premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Orizzonti Award for Best Film

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Friday, April 26, 2024. The competition in the 23rd Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival’s Official Feature Films Section comes to an end with the screening of a film that confronts family relationships with the growing Hungarian ultranationalist wave: Explanation for Everything (Magyarázat mindenre) (Hungary, Slovakia, 2023, 127 min.). Set in contemporary Hungary, filmmaker Gábor Reisz has made a passionate and complex work about youth, education, media and politics. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Orizzonti Award for Best Film.

A student who unintentionally fails his final exams triggers a national political scandal. This could be the synopsis of Explanation for Everything, whose author Gábor Reisz is now visiting the 23FICLPGC, where he held a press conference this Friday morning, April 26.

This is Reisz’s third feature film after the acclaimed Some Inexplicable Reason (2014) and Bad Poems (2018). Set in summertime Budapest, Explanation for Everything tells the story of Abel, a high school student from Budapest who is hopelessly in love with his best friend Janka, making it difficult for him to focus on his final exams. At the same time, Janka has an unrequited love for her married history teacher Jakab –who had a confrontation with Abel’s conservative father. The polarised social tension boils over when Abel’s history graduation exam becomes a national scandal.

Gábor Reisz never intended to make a political film, he just wanted to tell a story because he felt that in recent years nothing could be talked about in Hungary that was not related to politics. For a long time, the filmmaker has felt suffocated by the atmosphere of a divided country. In 2020, he recalled at the press conference, the Budapest University of Theater and Film Arts lost its autonomy when it was completely reorganized from above as directed by the state, and the professors and students did not agree with this at all. The demonstrations soon took a party politics turn and overnight the entire institution’s community was labeled as opposition by politicians and the government-controlled media. This is what prompted the main idea of Explanation for Everything.

The film, which defies political stereotypes and explores the tensions of a polarized Hungarian society, dives into political divisions as represented by a student wearing a national flag pin on an exam. That pin commemorates the 1848 War of Independence, one of Hungary’s most prominent celebrations, so “it should celebrate such positive things as patriotism, independence, freedom and unity,” but today, he said, “it’s being used for another ideological purpose.” Starting in 2002, when the right-wing party came into government, he explained, they began to use it as a symbol to recognize those who are right-wing and far-right sympathizers. “I think this has been the most important milestone within this polarization.”

Since they had a very low budget for the film, they were forced to shoot it with a crew of only 17 people. That’s why, he noted, they did not use makeup or artificial lighting and locations were “pretty homemade.” Nevertheless, the result of this drama is a captivating, highly detailed portrait of contemporary Hungary that through a compelling story invites reflection, not only on Hungarian society today, but also on 21st-century education and young people.

Gábor Reisz wanted to conclude his press conference by pointing out that “polarization is a universal problem that’s not only limited to Hungary, or even Europe, but is spreading all over the world.” “It’s the perfect tool to manipulate people. Not everything is black or white, good or bad. Life is richer, more diverse and complicated,” he added.

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