Hungary 1917: Jenö Janovics

653 The last Night-HungaryClick at the picture to view the film on EFG

Utolsó éjszaka, az (The Last Night)
R: Jenö Janovics. B: Mihály Fekete, Jenö Janovics, Ede Sas. K: László Fekete. D: Lili Berky, Adorján Nagy, Vilmos Lengyel, Mihály Fekete. P: Transsylvania Filmgyár. Hungary 1917
Print: Hungarian National Film Archive / Magyar Nemzeti Digitális Archívum és Filmintézet
German intertitles

This film is a special presentation and an exception on my site (which is mainly dealing with movies produced before WW 1.) It is an outstanding example of the early Hungarian (Transylvanian) film production and one of very few surviving Hungarian films of this era. The story is extraordinary as well as its special Hungarian-Russian background, the acting, the tinting techniques, and, last but not least, the brilliant copy thanks to the restoration at the Haghefilm Laboratory. (KK)

“Gitta, a young woman who used to be a famous primadonna before her marriage, abandons her husband and her son for the sake of the theatre and goes to Russia with an actor, Vándori. She performs in cabaret as a dancer and is very popular with Russian officers. A Russian colonel falls in love with her, and the debauched Vándori organizes a secret date for the colonel with Gitta. The colonel wants the woman to become his mistress, but she rejects him. Vándori is a gambler, first he gambles away Gitta’s jewellery, then Gitta as well. Years later, at the outbreak of WWI, Gitta leaves Russia with the help of the colonel. She returns home to find her family. She learns about her husband’s death and her son’s disappearance. She becomes a successful actress. A young man falls in love with her, but she recognizes him as her son.
The surviving print of the film is incomplete. The Hungarian National Film Archive won the 2001 Haghefilm Award for the restoration of ‘The Last Night’. The restored colour print was produced at the Haghefilm Laboratory in Amsterdam using the Desmet method. The surviving print contains German intertitles.”
europeana 1914-1918

“Central to the question of Hungarian language culture in Kolosvár was the Hungarian National Theater (Magyar nemzeti szinház). The first permanent theater in Kolosvár was built in 1821 and the Hungarian National Theater was established in 1906, with Jenö Janovics as its director. The theater was one of the foci of Hungarian cultural life in Kolosvár, which was by no means a backwater despite its distance from Budapest; on the contrary, the town supported two theaters and a traveling company that played in the countryside. (…) The establishment of filmmaking in Kolosvár, therefore, arose on fertile soil and, in addition, was helped by the ready acceptance of film as a new art form by intellectuals, artists (particularly those associated with the theater), journalists, and writers—paralleling the milieu of the coffee house culture of Budapest that was so central to the development of film in the capital.
The outbreak of war does not appear to have disrupted film output in Kolosvár. Although exports of Hungarian films and imports of foreign films were affected by the war, Hungarian output levels were maintained as other countries within the Austro-Hungarian empire, which previously had little taste for Hungarian films, imported them in considerable numbers as the opportunities for access to French, Italian, Danish, and American films disappeared or diminished. In 1915, ten films were made in Kolosvár. A peak was reached in 1916 with 19 films and the figures for the following years are only slightly down: 17 for both 1917 and 1918 (after the war there was a drastic downturn in production).
Of the films from 1917, ‘The Last Night’ (Az utolsó éjszaka) deserves special attention. A print was discovered in the Berlin Film Archive under the German title ‘Roman einer Schauspielerin’; it was restored and shown at the Pordenone Film festival in 2002. This achievement makes it the earliest of the only two films directed by Janovics in existence. The plot has many staple elements, ranging from the Oedipal conflict to the theme of the lover betrayed. (…) One aspect of interest in the restored print is the use of staging in depth. In one scene Gitta, having initially resisted the amorous advances of the actor, watches through a window as he walks away from her house. Although the actor is out of focus, we can clearly see two planes — Gitta, her face pressed against the window, and outside the actor slowly walking away, doffing his hat as he goes on his way. Staging in depth, even of this relatively primitive nature, was not new in cinema; it had been around for a few years. What this suggests is that, despite the relative isolation of Kolosvár, the Transylvanian filmmakers were not far behind the rest of the world. The film was first shown at the Szinkor cinema in Kolosvár in November 1917.”
John Cunningham (Sheffield Hallam U): Jenö Janovics and Transylvanian Silent Cinema. 2008