Punk has always been the music of rebellion. It might sound like an obvious statement, but this particular genre – from the very beginning of the musical trend within the punk subculture – became the music of the youth. Those who lived in the 1970s and 1980s under the communist regime managed to raise their voices through music and other means, even if it meant being arrested, killed or forcibly sent to a mental institution. Believe it or not, that was the reality for many of Eastern and Central Europe’s inhabitants, young and old.
The subject of the oppressed and their rebellion against the government establishment has been present in films for decades, particularly in Polish, Russian and Ukrainian cinema, just to name a few. While the topic itself has been depicted in different ways, they all have two things in common: the fight against injustice and the struggle to gain freedom for those downtrodden by the system.
Image © Tamás Dobos
Gabor Fabricius’ feature-length debut, Erasing Frank, was inspired by the events of the 1980s when artists, intellectuals and other professionals were faced with incarceration for their involvement, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism.
1983, Budapest: Frank (Benjamin Fuchs) is a leader of a banned punk band. He is charismatic yet sensitive, but he is also unafraid to “scream out” his hate against the state while performing his secret concerts. However, this doesn’t last long, and Frank is arrested and sent to a psychiatric hospital for observation. He does not realise that he has been drawn into a completely new reality – one in which an individual is stripped of freedom and dignity. Throughout Frank’s stay in the institution, one will experience his internal evolution, from a rebellious youngster to a man who finally gets a grasp of what fighting for one’s freedom means. And this all comes around when he meets a young and shy girl, Hanna (Kincsö Blénesi), and is faced with Erös (István Lénárt), a cultural leader of the state.
Image © Tamás Dobos
The film depicts hospital practices that were actually used in those times. Moreover, the fact they could have been even more drastic than what the director decided to show is also depressing. Erasing Frank is a film that should be watched by anyone who values aesthetics in art. Filmed in black and white, Fabricius handed the camera work over to Tamás Dobos, a talented cinematographer responsible for Natural Light by Dénes Nagy (Silver Bear at Berlinale 2021 for Best Director). The black and white pictures give an impression of sheer despair. Using those particular colours is not a step backwards, as many might think, but the result of Fabricius’ reflection on the type of the film he wanted to make, which was to express the emotions contained in the story as fully as possible.
There aren’t many words used, but the dialogue is functional – the picture says it all. Although there is not much punk music incorporated into the film, the sound itself establishes settings and creates a heart-rending atmosphere – the powerful scene depicting the army vehicles passing by Frank reinforces and foreshadows the film’s narrative [that’s a 3-minute-long single shot]. Even the minimal use of punk music gives meaning to the protagonist’s character and his actions.
Image © Tamás Dobos
Benjamin Fuchs’ portrayal of Frank is superb. Chosen out of 1500 candidates, he delivered a remarkable and commendable performance; Benjamin’s acting was so natural that it felt as if he was unaware of the presence of the camera. The actor’s technical mastery over his voice and body allowed him to make detailed choices about how the character speaks and moves. It is worth mentioning that Benjamin is not a professional actor, but what a star he is.
Erasing Frank has historical value, becoming a record of the reality behind the Iron Curtain to some extent. The film is intelligent, innovative and worth every second of the audience’s time.
Written by Maggie Gogler
View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts and fashion, worldwide.