By Tara Judah
When the Brothers’ Grimm first published their fairy tales, they were primarily intended for adults, not children. Though shorter editions followed, appealing to middle-class families, the stories retained their dark tone. The Huntsman – though struck by beauty, unable to go through with the gruesome task the Queen handed down to him – is not a noble character. He is a coward who leaves Snow White to be mauled by some wild animal in the forest.
Lily Lane (Liliom Ösvény, 2016) is the modern metamorphosed child of the Brothers’ Grimm. Rebeka (Angéla Stefanovics), separated from her husband and searching for her estranged father after her mother’s death, tells her son a disturbing tale about a Huntsman, a Fairy and a Fox.
The story itself is dark, but darker still is the telling. Angéla Stefanovics’ voice, with its unique timbre, recalls both the innocence of childhood and the strangeness of something otherworldly. When she takes on the role of storyteller her words seem impossibly disembodied, as though the Black Forest itself were speaking.
The interiors give us no more pauses for pleasure; there is rarely a light switched on inside her empty home- Bence Filiegauf’s is a cruel mise-en-scène. Narrative interruptions; visions, imaginings or memories, even when depicting something beautiful like her pregnant body, are shown, or perhaps remembered, in grainy black and white and obfuscating close-up. Accompanying this is an unsettling squelching sound, which, combined with a low dirge, makes the simple act of applying moisturiser sound vulgar.
Despite his protestations, Rebeka repeatedly calls her son ‘Dwarf’ – he is not just a child listening; he is part of the story, too. So, while she may have escaped The Huntsman and elided The Queen, she needs help, and there is no Prince Charming. Like all good fairy tales, this story has its resolution, but not the wholesome Disney-fied ‘happily ever after’. Lily Lane is a dark, haunting journey over well-trodden, grim ground.
Director: Benedek Fliegauf
Cast: Angéla Stefanovics, Bálint Sótonyi, Miklós Székely B.
Cinematography: Zoltán Lovasi
Edition: Balázs Budai
productor: Ernö Mesterházy, Monika Mécs
production company: FraktálFilm
Hungary 2016, 91 min