Katalin Varga is an immensely watchable Romanian film, a brooding and sulky revenge tale set in the gorgeous mountains of Transylvania. But first a word about villages.
Villages are the worst. Though big cities the bourgeoisie created greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life, there still remains many villages and villages are the worst.
The lack of economic freedom and resources causing abject poverty at worst and underemployment at best, superstitions, insufficient to no education, sheer boredom, lack of access to everything coupled with feudal and primitive familial and societal interactions that stymied intellectual and physical development. Villages are as violent as they come in suppressing human progress most often without shedding a drop of blood. Given the lack of anonymity in villages it is also very hard to murder people and extract revenge.
In Katalin Varga, director Peter Strickland focuses his camera on village life – that hasnâ€™t changed a lot since medieval times – against the backdrop of the misty Carpathian mountain range which is both intimidating and breathtaking. Katalin is forced to leave her husband and takes her only son on a journey in a horse cart to avenge a past atrocity. The film appears realist on the surface but mysticism and notions of sin and honor are ever-present as Katalin and her son Orban journeys through rural Transylvania.
While the film focuses on rural life and is set in one of the more beautiful parts of Romania, it has an intense sense of doom and danger. The movie is calm, serene and violent at the same time. The characters are constantly in motion and the film uses the woods and mountains as a background. The forest is shown as both bear infested dangerous and one with soothing nature that cures all ills. The village shown as a sad place where one has no life or dignity if one gets raped, or anonymity to plan revenge and murder.
Katalina Varga feels like the creation of a confident film maker who knows exactly what he is doing and couldn’t care less about how such films should be made. If you like this movie, also watch Kaurismaki’s Match Factory Girl.
Verdict: Highly watchable. 4/5