Time Stands Still

Peter Gothar

Hungary, 1982



Drama, history


Love, youth rebelling, European student revolts,
daily life behind the Iron Curtain


Time Stands Still (Hungarian: Megáll az idő) is a
1982 Hungarian film. The story unravells in 1956, the period of the uprising in Budapest, and revolves
around two brothers and a woman they have both fallen in love with. The film stars István Znamenák, Henrik Pauer, Sándor Sőth, Anikó Iván and Lajos Őze and was directed by Péter Gothár. Popular among audiences and critics, the film won the Award of the Youth at Cannes, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the award for Best Director at the Tokyo International Film Festival. The film was also selected as the Hungarian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 55th Academy Awards, but was not nomminated.

Time Stands Still opens in 1956 with the father of the two boys escaping to America. Ten years later,
the boys are seen in school trying to deal with the fact that their father is considered “an enemy of the people.” Shot in an expressionistic manner with oddly angled shots, surrealist lighting effects and elliptical editing, Péter Gothár’s superb second feature film is a frightening indictment of life under socialist regime. All the more threatening because of the way it depicts how school life and adolescent love could become totally disturbed by dishonest politics.

The 1956 Hungarian uprising seperates the family forever. The husband has a clandestine escape
route prepared via Red Cross to Vienna. His wife, however, is determined to stay in Budapest with their two kids. Though the film’s opening is fraught with significance, shot in semi-documentary sepia tone and underlined with momentous music, nothing really comes out of it. The father disappears, not much is heard from him again, and the kids, once grown-ups, turn his revolutionary fervor into a generalized adoration for “America,” by which they mostly refer to rock ‘n’ roll.

The movie follows the mother and her two sons for roughly a decade. Slightly better times come for Hungary. Enormous emphasis is placed on success. On getting the right grades and making the right acquaintances in order to enter medical or legal school. Because of their father’s reputation, the two sons fall victims of discrimination. There are several nice scenes. One involves the attempts of a newly appointed female teacher to win the attention of an unruly class. Another is the awkward and at the same time sweet rock ‘n’ roll party where smuggled Western goods and music, like Coke and Elvis, make their appearance. The film ends with the three drunk and dreamy young people stealing a car and ridicously attempting to crash the border into Austria.



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