A young woman (Juli Jakab) returns to her parents hat company to find work following their deaths. Initially turned down she finds her self caught between criminals and revolutionaries. As her situation becomes deadlier, she must decide what she’s willing to lose for the truth.
Son of Saul director László Nemes sets his mystery drama in pre-war Austria. Its a seemingly authentic recreation of the vibrant yet troubled city, filled with interesting characters. The threat of destruction and imminent war hangs over everything. Pleasant parties are violently torn apart, elegant fashion houses hide dark secrets. There’s a sense of horror lying beneath the charming period detail.
Nemes’ directorial style is to keep his camera close to his actor as possible, allowing the action around them to unfold blurred in the background. The effect is very claustrophobic and ensures that the splendour of the environment offers no relief from the turmoil of our characters’ lives.
In Juli Jakab, Nemes has found the equal of Géza Röhrig, his mesmerising lead from Son of Saul. Jakab is magnetic as the determined but perennially lost lead. She’s desperate to make sense of her surroundings and find some manner of justice, but is frustrated by those around her, all of whom have different expectations. Jakab gives a nuanced and rivetting performance of frustration and anger.
The plot of the film is fairly hard to follow. There are many characters and factions working against each other. Almost everyone is duplicitous or mysterious, making it difficult to keep track of who wants what. Its a labyrinthine thriller with no easy answers.
Where the film excels is in creating a sense of place and filling it with dread. If it’s difficult to get inside of the characters head, it’s certainly easy to follow what’s in her heart thanks to a committed performance from Juli Jakab and the intense style of László Nemes.