Hungarian director Szabolcs Hajdu’s seven features have gradually moved up the rankings of the annual Hungarian Film Prize, from Best Debut Director for Macerás ügyek in 2001, via Best Director for wrestling movie White Palms in 2006 to the Grand Prix for surrealist tale Bibliothèque Pascal in 2010.
The oddly titled It’s Not the Time of My Life (Ernelláék farlaséknál) took the top prize, the Crystal Globe, last year at Central Europe’s top film festival, Karlovy Vary - not bad for a film shot on a shoestring budget, using the director’s own apartment as the setting, starring Hajdu himself and his wife (and regular collaborator Orsolya Török-Illyés, and shot by a number of Hajdu’s students at the Metropolitan University of Budapest (that’s why there are 13 directors of photography).
But there is nothing cheap about the end result: the expertly charted chronicle of a family get-together kick-started by the sudden arrival on Albert and Eszter’s doorstep of Eszter’s sister and husband just back from a failed attempt to relaunch their lives in Scotland. Why Scotland? Who knows. It’s Not the Time of My Life is centred round a family reunion like those examined by Eugene O’Neill: sad, confrontational, funny and painful, it is an object lesson in how to get back to film basics. The beautiful, spacious apartment, meanwhile, may tempt you to move to Budapest.