The Round-Up

The Round-Up ★★★★★

Miklós Jancsó's The Round-Up is a work of staggering beauty; beauty that is, oddly enough, cultivated from the desolate, barren land of nothingness...otherwise known as the Hungarian Plain. However, one could easily mistake it for the earthly embodiment of Purgatory with its vast expanses of negative space, sediments of hopelessness and broken souls.

The Round-Up takes place in and around a prison camp in the middle of this barren landscape, a mirage of authoritarian degradation. Instead of focusing on a central character, Jancsó chooses to the pass the torch of lead throughout. The magnificent camerawork from Tamás Somló involving glorious, contemplative long takes focusing on the current character's predicament, dollying left and right, back and forth, as if the character's are handing off the duty of inhabiting the frame for the time being, a temporary fixture in the land of futility.

Somló and Jancsó's approach to the landscape is remarkable and undeniably integral to the film's wandering narrative. Establishing shots of the surrounding nothingness are peppered into a series of tight, close-up frames, as if reminding the viewer that these prisoners are nowhere, slowly eroding into the land through the systematic manipulation of an authoritative regime.

Should be noted, however, that the prisoners are complicit in these manipulation tactics, they are more than willing to lie, cheat and steal their way to absolution, seemingly unaware of the all-encompassing emptiness around them. Nothing but false hopes and empty promises.

The scene, wherein the camera slowly approaches the entrance, the doors open to reveal the prisoners walking in a circle, sacks over their heads clutching a rope with no end perfectly encapsulates the film and the prisoners current state of "existence".

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