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A quiet young man ( Felix Lajk) returns to the wild, isolated landscape of the Danube Delta where he connects with a sister (Orsi Toth) he never knew.

2 out of 4 stars



  • Directed and written by Kornel Mundruczo
  • Starring Orsi Toth and Felix Lajko
  • Classification: PG

Certain taboos, like having sex before marriage or wearing white after Labour Day or putting elbows on the table, melt away in the changing social climate. Among those that don't, incest would rank pretty high on any list anywhere. So a filmmaker who dares to broach the subject, at least outside the confines of a Greek tragedy, is well advised to have a clear idea of what he hopes to achieve and why. Clear but not simplistic, which is precisely the problem with Delta - for all its lofty thematic intentions, this thing has precious little to say.

That it's a parable, with allegorical wrappings, screams out from the generic treatment of the two taboo-busting principals. They are given no names beyond the Young Man and the Young Woman. After a prolonged absence, the former returns to a rustic village in the delta region of the Danube. There, not having seen her since childhood, he meets his sister - yes, the Young Woman. Their father has since died, but the mother is on hand, running a local bar in partnership with a dour fellow who fills the role of wicked stepdad. Of course, being wicked, he has designs on the girl.

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Almost immediately upon arriving, our Young Man leaves again, heading farther down the river to an island oasis where, amid the tall marsh grass, he builds a house on stilts - his Arcadia. His sister joins him in the sanctuary and, soon enough, they are joined together. Few words are spoken. The two are as silent as their surroundings, but we are obviously encouraged to think of their union as pure, even as a symbolic exercise in self-knowledge, taboo in the village's cruel and fallen world but perfectly natural in this watery Eden.

Prompted by such encouragement, we do think such thoughts, and then one other: "So what?" What we have here is a parable without resonance, an allegory without legs. In lieu of meaning, there's mood, tons of it thanks to Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo's admittedly impressive way with the camera - held shots that linger like the silences, shots of nature's abundance and society's narrowness, of the lovers' gentle communion and the villagers' hard faces.

Oh, like that stepdaddy, those villagers are a dour bunch. Don't expect them to keep their grubby paws off Eden and give peaceful co-existence a chance. The violence that ensues is meant to seem inevitable and feel tragic, and there's no denying the flick gets it half-right - I saw it coming, but I felt nothing. Oops, did I just give away the ending? Well, excuse me for so pointlessly breaking a taboo. It must be contagious.

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About the Author
Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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