Programme: Discovery
Director: Győrgy Pálfi
Country: Hungary
Year: 2002
Time: 75 minutes
Film Types: Colour/35mm

Production Company: Mokép c/o Magyar Filmunió
Executive Producer: Csaba Bereczki
Producer: András Bőhm
Screenplay: Győrgy Pálfi
Cinematography: Gergely Pohárnok
Editor: Gábor Marinkás
Sound: Tamás Zányi
Music: Balázs Barna, Samu Gryllus
Principal Cast: Ferenc Bandi, Józsefné Rácz, József Forkas, Ferenc Nagy, Jánosné Nagy

In his debut feature, György Pálfi presents a mesmerizing, unconventional murder mystery set against the sedate backdrop of rural Hungarian life. As the film progresses, its action ushered in by an old man’s bout of hiccups at the side of a road, an unusual fact emerges: no dialogue is ever spoken. Still, this cannot be mistaken for a silent film. Hukkle is a work with an elaborately structured soundtrack (what the director calls a “conceptual soundscape”) that reveals the aural minutiae of every scene: we never hear anyone speaking, but we do hear the sound of grass growing, women sewing, men bowling – all rhythmically intercut with the old man’s hiccups.

Hukkle is relentlessly inventive and ceaselessly delightful. Pálfi has crafted a daring technical tour de force that produces its complexities out of its simplicity. The film’s amalgamation of intense scenic meditation and crime story owes a little to Ron Fricke’s quietly atmospheric Baraka at the same time that it evokes the noir suspense of Russell Rouse’s wordless The Thief.

In the end, however, Hukkle is in a class all its own, turning subtle observation of daily life in the human and natural worlds into an intricate thriller before our very eyes. Significantly, it seems, all of the individuals who populate this uncanny community are accessories – if not to the crime that is eventually revealed, then at least to this cunning director’s fascinating stratagem.

Hukkle is splendidly shot, making the most of both its faintly implied documentary style and its brilliant, surprising manipulation of special effects. Its sonic rigour and stunning cinematography fuse seamlessly to produce a perfectly pitched series of riddles. “Hukkle” is onomatopoeic for the sound of a hiccup, a reference that takes in the structurally integral figure of the old man and also hints at the levity with which Pálfi conceived and executed the film. A flawless exercise in wordless narrative, Hukkle never seems pedantic or precious, but remains fresh and kaleidoscopic at every turn.

by Dimitri Eipides