The Round-Up — Impassive Stance of an Historical Observer


There is nothing like a big story in the film. The plot is small, yet vividly etched. The film focuses on the MO of the oppressors and the way they terrorize the prisoners through various means of psychological tortures. The film, for much of its time sticks with its treatment, much on the psychological realm. It also studies the feebleness of the prisoners to withstand the agonizing mental tortures that the prison guards impart on them, and their inefficiency to strike back.

The movie almost immerses in contemplative silence throughout, building cumbersomeness in the viewer’s mind. The viewer in fact is more shaken by the silence- that even a frightening musical score would not have probably achieved- that accompanies the rather slow paced visuals. The movie when reviewed by the critics around the world, often meet the comments on the inadequacy in the emotiveness in the histrionics of the actors, almost everyone, and none in particular. But given that the prisoners replete with nightmarish insecurity over their future and lack of assurance of getting out alive and the guards burdened with the pressure of detecting the Sandor’s bandits , both are not at the mercy to relax. This rigidity in the psyche that plays within the characters mind can be well correlated with the acting styles. Hence one could deduct that this ‘lack of acting’ is actually pre meditated and deliberate.

And in the ultimate scene the guards employ Machiavellian ploy on two of the former bandits successfully, managing to extract the men they want from the lot. Shortly after this when the messenger from the Emperor of Austria announces the message of general amnesty granted to Sandor, the leader, in his absence. After a short pause, which is of course filled by the jubilation of the bandits, the announcer continues, “The rest of the troop will get their just punishment”.


The film in more than one way examines the political strategies employed among the men in power over their colonial citizens, the psychological tactics deduced to achieve their aims and accomplish the common task before them at any cost.

The film though portrays the post-revolution era of the 1848, the film when got released was the post-revolution era of 1956. In fact Jancsó had to promise that the film doesn’t talk anything about the second revolution of Hungary (1956) before the film could be screened in the international festivals. It was trough this film Jancsó attained international acclaim.

Even though it is said, by the maker himself that the film doesn’t deal with the contemporary revolution at the time of its release the local audience back in Hungary viewed the work exactly the other way. This in fact is attributed to the success of the film locally. The viewers perceived this film to have depicted the oppressions the people of Hungary were subjected to by the Soviets. For this matter some of the critics consider ‘The Round up’ as an allegorical work that manages to show the suffering of both the post-revolution eras of the two revolutions that shaped the history of Hungary.

Director Miklos Jancso (left)

Director Miklos Jancso (left)

The film maker shows his brilliance in every aspect of making the film from camera angles to plot development to deliberately subdued histrionics of the actors to his choice of usage of musical score to a bare minimum. This is a rare film on political oppression and what is rare is it is able to achieve its perfection in spite of its documentary tonality, unhurried narrative pace, and near mute background score, save for few trumpeting during the parade sequences.


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