The Red and the White

Miklós Jancsó's black-and-white film is a disquietingly beautiful ballet of war and death, in which war is the enemy and individuals are but the nameless and helpless victims of its perpetual motion. The setting is Central Russia during the civil war of 1918; at an abandoned monastery and later at a field hospital, power shifts continually between the Red (Hungarian-speaking) soldiers and their White (Russian-speaking) guards. Jancsó's style is epic in some very basic sense of the word: with a ceaselessly tracking camera, he moves among figures whose positions change against a vast, unchanging landscape; he captures, as if from a great distance, the essence of history, with its crisscrossing vectors of transient loyalties. For Jancsó, the spaciousness of the CinemaScope screen-now horizontal, now incredibly deep-is a palette for an almost surreal flow in which the only constant is the absolute corruptibility of power.

This page may by only partially complete. For additional information about this film, view the original entry on our archived site.