(Air Date: Week Of 07/03/96)
If "Magic Hunter" were a dessert, it would be a parfait. You consume a layer, fall unexpectedly into another, down into another, then find yourself in a re-capitulation of it all, but in a different flavor.
First, there's the whipped cream of day to day reality, which can give way at any moment to sponge cake. Its huge, tunneling holes expand to another dimension in time, sort of like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, offering entree to the Middle Ages with its attendant superstition and magic. At this level, we can see a painting of the Virgin Mary come to life and protect a rabbit that's being chased by hounds. Call this magic, quivery layer JELLO.
O.K, I might've gotten carried away with the dessert analogy, but it's also good for suggesting the richness of this film, and its airy, protean nature that prevents you from grasping it through any boring symbolic construct.
On the modern, day-to-day level, the story is inspired by the 18th. century opera "Der Freischutz" by Carl Maria von Weber, and there are excepts from the opera, along with original music in the style of the Middle Ages. Our hero is a crack marksman on the Budapest police force, Max, who is happily married and has a daughter. In the opening scene, as we watch through the sight of his gun, he loses his aim and accidentally shoots a hostage. Magic happens in the every day police scenes-- he gets seven magic bullits from a mysterious and morally ambiguous colleague on the police force, that allow him to pass a marksmanship test and keep his job on probation.
Max must now protect a Russian chess player by observing him from afar with binoculars. The binoculars, like the sights of his gun, can dissolve into the tunnels that take us to the Medieval World. They also allow him to observe the chess player meet his wife and daughter by chance in a park, and begin a decorous flirtation. Of course, magic exacts its price-- the seventh magic bullit belongs to Satan and will only hit a target of the Devil's choosing.
The director is Ildiko Enyedi, who directed the 1989 film "My Twentieth Century." While there's no rigid symbolism, there are allusions to the pagan cult of the goddess, who evolved into the Virgin Mary of Christianity, a figure so real in the Middle Ages that even icons of her were believed to possess life. The director herself says that only a miracle can save the world today from mortal danger, but that we are trapped by our disbelief in miracles. The solution, she says, is in attending to our past, our culture. The producer, by the way, is a modern-day cultural icon, Mr. Ziggy Stardust himself, David Bowie.
"Magic Hunter" is an escape into another reality, a rich work of art, and left me wanting to see it again for what I missed in one viewing.
Copyright 1996 Mary Weems
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