VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL LILI HORVáT

Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time - Fatal brutality of love at first sight

Love at first sight has the potential to transform and sometimes completely destroy a person's life.

Love, at first sight, has the potential to transform and sometimes completely destroy a person's life. It has a tremendous gravity that goes beyond theory and ethics. Once possessed by this power, people, unable to resist, will be swallowed up by its stormy forces, and will be driven to love. This Hungarian masterpiece, Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, directed by Lili Horvát, attempts to illustrate the fatal and deadly power of love at first sight.

The film's protagonist is Márta (Natasa Stork), a neurosurgeon in the United States. She is enjoying a glittering career, but when she goes to her hometown Budapest, Hungary, to present her research, she meets a doctor named János (Viktor Bodó) and instantly falls in love with him. With intense emotion like a fever, she goes to the liberty bridge, believing that she promised the rendezvous with the doctor, but János does not appear.

But Márta cannot forget him. Abandoning even the idea of returning to America, Márta settles in Budapest and seeks him out. She eventually tracks down the hospital where he works and succeeds in getting a job as a neurosurgeon. Then comes the long-awaited moment of reunion with him, but János doesn't remember her at all.

While the film portrays Márta's romantically vindictive behaviour, Horvát's direction is pervaded by icy objectivity. We see Márta staring at a picture of János on the hospital's website, Márta wandering around Budapest looking for his image, and Márta watching a video on Youtube of János as a child performing a song in a singing contest. The director, however, does not favour her side, even as she looks at the landscapes of her actions carefully. A calm observation runs through the film here.

It is only after she reunites with János that Márta's life truly begins to rage on. At first, she communicates with him as a colleague and friend, but during their interaction, she wonders if he has a family, which has the possibility to destroy her love. Then a young man named Alex (Vilmányi Benett), the son of the patient for whom she performed the operation, falls in love with Márta and his verdant love makes her heart tremble.

Throughout the film, there are several scenes of Márta's dialogue with her psychiatrist. Very impressive is the clarity of Maartha's analysis for her own emotions, and her words have surprising objectivity. Paradoxically, this proves that even a person who can analyze their own passions is not able to resist the magic of love at first sight. No matter how many times she analyzes herself in front of the psychiatrist, Márta continues to pursue János with her obsession.

To complicate matters, János himself also begins to show his affection for Márta. As their interactions grow, he invites Márta to dinner. While Márta is pleased by this, she does not receive his favour in a straightforward manner, due to the aforementioned presence of his family. In this context, the magic in which joy and suspicion creep like a snake drives Márta to a spiritual crisis.

What emerges here is a subjective depiction of Márta's psychology, which is the exact opposite of the previous objective depiction. At one point, when Márta comes out of her apartment, she sees János waiting for her across the street. Surprised, Márta doesn't go to him, but instead walks down the sidewalk, keeping her eyes on his face. Then János begins to walk, too, keeping his eyes on her face. What floods from their looks and walks resonant over the road is the euphoria that is impossible to describe. But this euphoria is undeniably accompanied by the expectation of love's fulfilment and the fear of its collapse, and every time she feels happy, Márta's heart becomes more unstable.

Moving freely between objectivity and subjectivity, Horvát depicts the fateful absurdity of love at first sight. This absurdity throws Márta into the desolate wilderness of love, where she continues to wander, driven by her own passions. Brutal is everything here; ambiguous anxiety,  ephemeral joy, and even the euphoria that envelops her body wholeheartedly. While looking at this cruelty, we can't help thinking about the love we have gone through, the love that remains in the lowest depths of our hearts, which is the one-and-only power of "Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time".

© Venice International Film Festival press kit

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