Last night I watched an incredible Hungarian film “The Wind Whistled Beneath Their Feet” from 1976. Here is some information about the film from the folks at Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn, NY. They had a showing of the film recently, about which I am very jealous:
György Szomjas brings exquisite style and pacing to this elegiac gallows western about a betyár — a brand of 19th century highwayman popular in contemporary Hungarian balladry — set amid the Great Hungarian Plain in 1937. It follows the path of a brooding, aging outlaw newly escaped from prison whose personal revenge quest dovetails with the interests of the landless herdsman who oppose the state’s building a canal through the fields on which they work their trade. He becomes an unlikely hero to unwashed vagabond workers while facing down a mutually-admiring adversary in the form of a forthright squire who had captured him before. Meanwhile, an opportunistic youngster attempts to work both sides to his benefit. As ditches are dug for canals and corpses alike, the state puts increasing pressure on the wistful squire, who realizes the social order is changing and his fortunes are in decline; and yet he remains dutifully attached to his mission.
Along with Szomjas’s follow-up ROSSZEMBEREK, THE WIND IS WHISTLING UNDER THEIR FEET is probably the only example of a “Goulash Western.” Though carefully paced and supposedly based on historical documents, it aims squarely for populist appeal. The autumnal palette, period imagery, and sudden outbursts of hysterical grotesquery recall Andrzej Żuławski’s THE DEVILS. Yet most of all it brings to mind the unlikely grouping of Woody Guthrie, Miklós Jancsó, and Akira Kuroswawa — or maybe Béla Tarr meets Sergio Leone. Whatever the comparisons, THE WIND IS WHISTLING UNDER THEIR FEET is a stirring, forgotten gem in classic Spectacle tradition and not to be missed.
Here is the trailer Spectacle put together:
I thought director György Szomjas did an incredible time mixing the style of Sergio Leone with a more Eastern European approach to filmmaking . . . and Hungarian settings. The film is gorgeous and confident in its timing. Not overlong, it does not rush to come to its inevitable end. The story of the outlaw Farkos Csapó Gyurka, played by Djoko Rosic, translates into an fairly familiar western movie plot about the end of the frontier. It is thematically and plot-wise very similar to Once Upon A Time In The West (1968). There was an obligatory bar fight, shootouts, etc. There was even a nod to John Ford with a shot of a woman framed by a inn’s doorway.
This is a wonderful film. I really recommend it. The semi-sequel Rosszemberek (1979) is available on Youtube in Hungarian and there are subtitles floating around for that film. I am eager to watch it as well.
It is a little too early to say, but I think that I would rate this film in the 8.5 range. This is a real classic deserving of more attention from fans . . . or at least for the fan who seen virtually everything.