When a series of horrific murders targeting young women occur in the small town of Martfu, a determined detective becomes obsessed with freeing a potentially innocent man from prison and catching the real culprit before he strikes again. Little does he know, however, that the case has its roots deep in conspiracy and corruption which could potentially see him lose a lot more than he ever imagined. Based on real-life events, Strangled is a social, political and psychological thriller set at the height of socialism in 1960s Hungary. With the Soviets having taken control and the effects of the failed uprising still being felt, dark secrets and betrayals are slowly uncovered in this throwback thriller.
Directed by Arpad Sopsits, Strangled is an unflinching piece of work that doesn’t hold back. With scenes of necrophilia and strong sexual violence, some might argue that the film has a tendency to overstep the mark into exploitation. What one may perceive as a gratuitous depiction of misogynistic murder could just as easily be argued by someone else as being a true representation of the crimes committed. Either way, the effect it has on the audience will leave many feeling uncomfortable, which is a brutally authentic emotion to have when watching a sordid thriller of this nature.
The cinematography by Gábor Szabó perfectly captures the gloomy aesthetic of the time with the brutalist concrete structures contrasting with the serene rural backdrop of Martfu. The visual imagery is enhanced further thanks to Márk Moldvai’s score which is the perfect accompaniment to the events that are unfolding onscreen. Whether it’s the foreboding beat of the killer stalking his prey or the high-octane tempo of a chase, Moldvai’s music manages to bring out the most of every situation. The performances by the cast are strikingly bold and although they may at times be verging on a little caricature, the script does enough to keep proceedings grounded, giving each of the characters enough room to breathe.
With the country having suffered from Communistic rule, it’s interesting to learn about the sensitive political climate of the time. Add to that a judicial system which was put into complete disarray due to various levels of corruption and incompetence and we’re able to get an idea of just how complicated the situation in Hungary really was. Where Strangled really shines however is when conveying how powerless many of the characters are due to the charade of a competent police department having to be maintained at whatever the cost. It’s thanks to the script which refuses to buckle under pressure that Strangled is able to cover so much of the time period whilst still being an enjoyably dark thriller.
Overall, Strangled is a success thanks to its no holds barred approach to its subject matter. Although some may find it distasteful, genre fans will be happy to see that Arpad Sopsits has crafted a deeply mesmerizing film which will keep viewers hooked to the bitter end. Although the pacing can at times be a little uneven and the performances maybe a tad overcooked, Strangled does what all good factual films set out to achieve and makes you want to read more about the real story. So if you’re looking for a meaty thriller to tuck into then look no further and give this one a watch!
STRANGLED / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ARPAD SOPSITS / STARRING: KAROLY HAJDUK, GABOR JASZBERENYI, ZSOLT ANGER / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 5TH