Hukkle is a foreign film in the truest sense of the word. Foreign to us in its unconventional style of storytelling, its rural-life pacing, and its perhaps impenetrable sense of humor. This debut from Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi would stand alone as an cinematic oddity in any country, but there is a certain central European sensibility around it that feels specific to the region. No, I've never been to that part of the world, but Hukkle doesn't bear the mark of American, French, or Asian influence like other modern imports commonly do.
Palfi and cinematographer Gergely Poharnok were given carte blanche to express themselves however they saw fit. The pair, fresh out of film school (Palfi was only 28 when the film was finished), come off like wunderkind geniuses ready to splash into the international scene, and with their meticulously crafted set-ups, camera tricks, and tracking shots they make a good show of it. But like many egoist filmmakers making their first time around the block, Hukkle oftentimes comes off as overly showy.
Granted, the story is bare, and I suppose one could argue that Hukkle is pure cinema experimentation, but if that's the case, Palfi didn't bring enough originality of vision to the table. Is he a quality filmmaker or simply a highly competent technician (Hi, David Fincher!)? It remains to be seen.
As for the story... well, on one fresh viewing I don't think I can be of much help. But I'll give you a map. Let's see. There is a recurring man on a bench that hiccups ("hukkle" is Hungarian for hiccup), vehicles of industry, close-ups of insects and foliage, gorgeous captures of plated food that rival the vivid, merging colors of pie and ice cream in My Blueberry Nights, a dead man, a dead cat, a pig, some pig farmers... all soundtracked to the crisp sounds of the environment these subjects are in. The only discernible dialogue comes at the end when we are treated to two gorgeous Hungarian folk songs.
Perhaps there is something central going on here. My hunch is that there is. Despite my inability to connect the dots, Hukkle is endlessly watchable. It's possible to be so mesmerized by the movement that you forget to pay attention to the subtext.
No doubt though that Gyorgy Palfi leaves you with an itch to keep your eyes affixed on him. In an era filled with many, he stands out. His latest film Taxidermia ran the festival circuit, and generated buzz with its absurdist scenes of competitive eating, obesity, taxidermy, a penis that shoots fire, and more. I've yet to see it, but in comparison, Hukkle seems gentle and sweet. (Tartan USA was supposed to release it before they went belly up early this year).