Wholly unrelenting and uncensored, Hungarian writer-director Arpad Sopsits’ Strangled (A Martfüi Rém, in its native translation) is a true crime neo-noir that rarely lets up. Strangled effectively transposes the real-life murders in Martfü into an expansive and winding narrative that spans a decade.
In 1957, Akos Reti (Gabor Jeszberenyi) pleads guilty to the murder of his ex-lover, a shoe factory worker, when she is found dead on her route home one evening. Given a 25-year prison sentence, a fate he himself deems worse than death, the case seems all but concluded; until similar murders crop up almost a decade later, in 1964, and it’s up to detectives Bota and Szirmai (Zsolt Anger and Peter Barnai) to solve the mystery. What follows is anything but expected, yet deeply intriguing and shocking all the same.
The murder scenes are undoubtedly effective, never stepping into gratuity despite its insistence on showing every depraved detail of the killer’s escapades. The camerawork really shines here, with Sopsits choosing to leave details just out of frame that make what is kept in all the more horrifying. The killer’s victims carry the film’s emotional weight; the dramatic irony at play as the audience see them lured to their deaths is just as gut-wrenching every time it occurs. The depravity of these scenes serves to bolster the viewer’s sympathies for the falsely imprisoned Akos, who’s own storyline is not for the squeamish.
A topsy-turvy mystery and some arresting visuals in a narrative that doesn’t pull any punches make Strangled well worth the watch – just make sure you’re in the right mood for it. What catharsis the film does provide in its closing moments is bittersweet, and ensures its story will stay with viewers well past the closing credits.
CAST: Gabor Jeszberenyi, Károly Hajduk, Zsolt Anger, Peter Barnai
DIRECTOR: Arpad Sopsits
WRITER: Arpad Sopsits
SYNOPSIS: Based on real-life events, this psycho-thriller is set in the provincial Hungary of the 1960s, when a series of atrocious murders shocked the small town of Martfü.