2018 Film Reviews

ArteKino Festival 2018 Review: Gábor Reisz’s ‘For Some Inexplicable Reason’

Gussying up a jejune scenario with a trendy, faux-naturalist visual style, Gábor Reisz’s For Some Inexplicable Reason leaves little room for genuine spontaneity or emotional engagement. This tragicomic tale of a milquetoast slacker drifting aimlessly through the final year of his twenties in an oppressively dull service economy can only telegraph its protagonist’s quarter life crisis in deeply generic terms. Áron (Áron Ferenczik) is newly single, unemployed and still financially dependent on his overbearing parents. He harbours vague dreams of becoming a novelist but lacks the drive necessary to set pen to paper. His only solace comes from hanging with his close circle of friends — each introduced in a documentary-style direct address to the camera — but their professional, financial and personal successes serve as a constant reminder of his own lack of direction. Áron’s emotional stasis is illustrated in the opening sequence, a cringe-worthy set-piece which sees him fake his own death in a variety of public spaces to see if he will rouse a reaction from the surrounding pedestrians — each time, natch, he is completely ignored. If it had been constructed with a lighter touch or some semblance of self-reflexive critique, this sledgehammer symbolism may have been more palatable, but it is instead clear from the very first frame that Reisz will treat Áron’s cliché navel-gazing with total solemnity.

Unfortunately, Áron comes across less as a fully realized character than a broadly defined type — the sensitive, witty intellectual who is paralyzed by insecurity and self-pity. This insular figure spends the first act wandering aimlessly through the wintery streets of Budapest — captured with an oppressively gloomy and muted colour palette — struggling to overcome his recent breakup with his long-term girlfriend Eszter (Juli Jakab). His hopeless pining is expressed through snatches of voice-over narration that feel pulled from a high-schooler’s journal: “One day Eszter cleared her hair out of the drain and left me. She said I was immature. I don’t know what mature is.” When he spots a photo of Eszter with a new man on social media, Áron drinks himself into a stupor, and when he awakes the next morning, he finds that he has bought a plane ticket to Portugal on his parents’ credit card. This incident sets off the tensions that will come to drive the remainder of the threadbare plot — Áron must find a job to repay his parents, tie up loose ends with his buddies and generally become a more active participant in his own life in the few weeks before he is due to leave the country. 

One of the film’s more questionable sub-plots involves Áron’s juvenile infatuation with Eva, an attractive ticket controller on his train route. After enduring several painful trips lusting after her from afar, the nebbish Áron seeks out her contact details from the local public transportation fines office, who are all too happy to oblige a young romantic. Áron then uses this information to cyber-stalk her, determine her regular haunts, and then frequent these areas in the hopes of “accidentally” running into her. To the film’s credit, Áron’s pursuit ends on a note of pointed anti-climax, with Eva dismissively shrugging off his desperate plea for a coffee date. However, the fact that Áron’s obsession is portrayed as the overly idealistic behaviour of a loveable — if somewhat misguided — dreamer rather than something more creepy belies a disturbing undercurrent of sexism. The women that populate Áron’s life exist as one-dimensional, passive objects that exist only in relation to his own struggles, and it remains unclear what exactly attracts them to this deadbeat. In the film’s lowest moment, one of Áron’s friends takes him to a bar to teach him the basics of picking up anonymous chicks. Improbably, Áron finds success with this advice and winds up at the apartment of a model-perfect young woman with no discernible characteristics who immediately undresses and lies on the bed, beckoning him over. Áron — still dressed in his usual attire of two tattered coats and an adolescent backpack — is repulsed by her looseness and launches into an aggressive, misogynistic rant about the collapse of sexual mores in modern club life. The film’s refusal to give the woman a voice to counter any of this is revealing of its myopic perspective. Despite making some small jabs at Áron’s passivity and lack of responsibility, the film never truly critiques him as thoroughly as it should.

There are a few flights of fancy interspersed throughout the narrative which help For Some Inexplicable Reason break away from its otherwise pedestrian visual style, but even these sequences are too weighed down by on-the-nose, overdetermined symbolism to pack much weight: Áron’s desire to be separated from his parents is expressed through a daydream in which he pulls a giant extension chord; his inability to forget Eszter is symbolised through a fantasy in which a line of identical women follow him at night like ghosts; his ability to escape with his friends is expressed through an impromptu song-and-dance number. 

This lack of specificity (as much a failure of cinematic imagination as it is of the script) is the central problem of For Some Inexplicable Reason. Viewers know that Áron is an aspiring writer, but there’s no indication of what Áron would write about or what form his writing would take. The bulk of the feature concerns Áron’s attempts to get over his separation from Eszter, yet it is never clear what their life together was like. Although viewers are told that Áron studied film history at university, there’s no sense of what films he appreciates, what inspired him to take the course, or what he took away from his education. Áron’s parents never rise above thin caricatures of stultifying middle-class corporate culture. For Some Inexplicable Reason strains for authenticity but only registers as a compendium of conventions familiar to the tired subgenre of the post-collegiate dramedy.

James Slaymaker (@jmslaymaker) is a filmmaker from Dorset, UK and a PhD student at The University of Southampton. His writing has been featured in MUBI Notebook, Senses of Cinema, Film International, Little White Lies, Sound on Sight, Popmatters, Alternate Takes, Bright Lights Film Journal, College Humour, The Vulgar Cinema and McSweeney’s, among others. He’s also contributed a chapter to the upcoming book ‘Hard to Get: The Films and Female Characters of Howard Hawks.’ His first book, ‘Time is Luck: The Life and Cinema of Michael Mann,’ is due for publication in 2018.

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