A Midsummer Sunday on Mars


Writer-director György Pálfi’s Hukkle takes its onomatopoeic title (pronounced HOOK-leh), as well as its framing motif, from the sound of a wrinkly old codger’s hiccup. There are plenty of other noises—all manner of baas, snores, cowbells, and birdcalls—but virtually no dialogue. Deranging a venerable Hungarian tradition of “village sociology,” Pálfi’ employs a bizarrely associative montage to fashion a portrait of a traditional peasant community—just a midsummer Sunday on Mars. Existence is an unfathomable kozmic joke, but some sort of life cycle is in spin: A grub-eating mole, introduced in subterranean close-up, bangs into a hoe, inadvertently surfaces, and gets tossed to the dog. Everyone is constantly preparing or eating food and the many meals shown are always a matter of women feeding men. Did that sweet old lady put something in the paprikas? Is that what killed the cat? Throughout, a long-haired cop is investigating—possibly the corpse at the bottom of the lake. Hukkle is filled with such mysteries. As curious townsfolk shuffle off to church, a fake earthquake rocks the village, including a freshly dug grave. Does time run backward? The cop types up his report, looks at a batch of photos, and realizes something. So might we, once we hear the sardonic song performed by a bevy of village maidens at the wedding that ends the movie.