Renowned for her captivating dramas depicting the challenges and complexities of life behind the former Iron Curtain, trailblazing Hungarian writer-director Márta Mészáros is among the most accomplished European auteurs of the post-war generation.
Following recent restorations of her films by the Hungarian National Film Fund, the Australian Cinémathèque presents Mészáros’s ambitious and deeply personal ‘Diary’ trilogy: Diary for My Children 1984, Diary for My Loves 1987, and Diary for My Father and Mother 1990.
Part historical drama, part künstlerroman – the ‘Diary’ series is a semi-autobiographical recreation of Mészáros’s upbringing amid the social tumult of the newly founded Eastern Bloc. Fusing poetic memory with historical detail, the ‘Diary’ series showcases Mészáros’s unmistakable flair for capturing the spirit of her subjects and the formidable social forces that seek to confine them. Captured with visually striking cinematography by Mészáros’s son Nyika Jancsó and featuring understated yet powerful performances from their casts, the films render a vision of the past both vibrant and mournful.
Born in Budapest in 1931, Mészáros endured a tumultuous childhood marked by the tragic loss of both parents. Her father, a renowned sculptor, fell victim to the Stalinist purges, while her mother tragically passed away during childbirth. As a teenager, Mészáros attended the prestigious State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow, the first Hungarian woman to do so. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, she worked extensively making documentaries for state television in Hungary and Romania before pivoting to narrative film with the release of her debut feature The Girl in 1968.
A stirring portrait of a spirited young woman raised in state care who yearns to connect with her birth mother, The Girl made history as the first Hungarian feature to be directed by a woman. It was followed by a phenomenal run of eight feature films directed by Mészáros between 1968 and 1979, including Adoption 1975 – the tale of an unlikely friendship between a middle-aged female factory worker who wishes to fall pregnant and a rebellious teenage girl – which took out the Golden Bear at the 1975 Berlin Film Festival, helping Mészáros achieve wider international recognition.
Continuing to make films until 2017, her career is among the most prolific and critically acclaimed in modern European cinema. The release of these director-approved digital restorations return her body of work to the spotlight, showcasing a visionary filmmaking voice that is best exemplified by this striking trilogy of films.
Program curated by Robert Hughes, Australian Cinémathèque. Writing by Rupert Levien.
QAGOMA acknowledges the generous assistance of the National Film Institute, Budapest in providing materials for this program.
The Film Diaries of Márta Mészáros
Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA, Brisbane
27 – 29 October 2023