Filmed in shimmering black and white that suggests a fairy tale, this film has such breathtaking visuals it makes one mourn that black-and-white cinematography has fallen into disfavor. This is a dazzling celebration of feminism, mechanical progress, unbreakable familial ties, and early
20th century history. Despite the occasionally slack pace, it is a magical achievement that creates its own universe.
Taking the form of a fable, the film outlines a world of unlimited possibilities. In Hungary in 1880, identical twin girls are separated while selling matches. The different paths of the girls, Lili and Dora (both played by Segda) unwind over many years before they serendipitously cross once more.
Aglow with fervor, Lili has become a radical determined to free the masses, while Dora leans toward the pleasures of the flesh. To his total confusion, a man known as Z (Jankowski) meets both women while traveling on the Orient Express, believing them to be one fascinating creature. Intercut with
this dual romance are depictions of technological breakthroughs of the time, including the tale of a laboratory dog who outsmarts his scientist keepers, and commentary by Thomas Alva Edison (Andorai). Somehow this fanciful comedy of errors seems to be a logical extension of the progress-driven
world in the early 1900s; the characters exist in a shining new world where anything can happen. Since creativity charges the air, the ingenuity of the characters in getting themselves out of scrapes seems only natural. At the film's climax, Lili (en route to eliminate the minister of the
interior) encounters her long-lost sister in a hall of mirrors, where the women effect a liberating union.
In his debut film, director Enyedi dexterously unfolds a fanciful tale layered with whimsical and historical segments that touch tangentially on the main storyline. Never tied to a linear structure, it is full of delightful asides, such as the story of the monkey whose naivete about human beings
lands him in captivity. The best way to enjoy MY 20TH CENTURY is to approach it as a fantastic cavalcade in which human truths are revealed by accident. Despite the fact that the characters wander through a technological wonderland, the most magical proposition of the film lies not in
inventiveness but in the capacity of the spirit to reinvent itself. A liberating experience from a filmmaking visionary.
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- Released: 1989
- Rating: NR
- Review: Filmed in shimmering black and white that suggests a fairy tale, this film has such breathtaking visuals it makes one mourn that black-and-white cinematography has fallen into disfavor. This is a dazzling celebration of feminism, mechanical progress, unbre… (more)