CHILDREN OF GLORY/ SZABADSÁG, SZERELEM Directed by Krisztina Goda. Starring Iván Fenyö, Kata Dobó, Sándor Csány, Károly Gestesy 12A cert, Cineworld, Dublin, 120 min
THE vigorous game of water polo that opens Children of Glory serves as a potent metaphor for the relationship between Hungary and the Soviet Union in 1956. The setting is Moscow, where the referee blatantly ignores the persistent fouls of the Soviet players and allows them to win. The star Hungarian player, Karcsi (Iván Fenyö), responds by aiming the ball at the referee’s face.
Karsci is essentially apolitical, more interested in sex and in preparing to represent his country at the imminent Olympic Games in Melbourne. Then, returning home to Budapest, he is rebuked by the secret police for his aggression in Moscow, and he falls for a feisty university student, Viki (Kata Dobó).
There are reports of unrest and strikes in Poland, and Hungarians take to the streets in solidarity. Karsci chooses to ignore the advice of his best friend, who dismissively refers to Viki as Joan of Arc and urges Karsci to concentrate on his training for the Olympics. From early on, we anticipate that another, even more symbolic water polo game will follow in Melbourne.
Children of Glory sets the experiences of its fictional characters against the turbulence of mass demonstrations in Budapest and the mounting tensions when the authorities respond by indiscriminately firing into the crowds. As the death toll escalates and idealism fades, the people of Hungary wonder in vain when the outside world will intervene.
Director Krisztina Goda proves adept at capturing the turmoil and panic on the streets of Budapest, impressively staging huge crowd scenes on convincing sets and locations, and accompanied by a stirring score.
Her film is a heartfelt dramatisation of this momentous revolution and its shattered hopes. The false dawn that followed is chillingly expressed in a nocturnal scene of Russian tanks rolling towards the city.