Kontroll (2003)


“Nice place. Come here often?”

The Scoop: 2003 R, directed by Nimród Antal and starring Sándor Csányi, Eszter Balla and Zoltán Mucsi.

Tagline: Murder. Mystery. Romance. Just another ride on the subway.

Summary Capsule: A ticket inspector for the Budapest metro with a pathological fear of the “above-ground” meets a serial killer and an adorable bear.


Courtney’s rating: Egészségedre!

Courtney’s review: At the time of my writing this review, I’m preparing for my final week living in Budapest, Hungary. I came here for a semester because my college has a direct study abroad program here and also because saying “I lived in Budapest for 4 months” sounds pretty cool. I’m absolutely in love with this city, and even though I can’t wait to see my family and friends again, I’m heart-broken that I can’t stay longer.

With that being said, there are some things I definitely will not miss. I won’t miss not being able to speak to my neighbors. I won’t miss my crappy Internet connection. And I really won’t miss using the metro at night. Budapest prides itself on having the second oldest metro in the world, but trust me when I say that they should do their best to hide that little nugget of trivia. It’s scary! It’s loud and rickety and smells funky and I just don’t like it. And now, because I’ve seen this movie, I’ve got potentially schizophrenic or inebriated metro employees and Reaper-esque “pushers” to worry about.

Kontroll is a psychological thriller from first-time director Nimród Antal that plunges headfirst into the underground civilization of the Budapest metro system. Here, there is no sunlight, only flickering fluorescents; teams of ticket inspectors challenge each other to “rail-runs” for sport; and our hero Bulcsú will do just about anything to avoid going up into the real world. It starts off as a dark comedy about how much being a ticket inspector sucks because you just get yelled at and the underground is seedy and gross and makes you go crazy. But more grim issues arise as we watch a mysterious hooded figure push random passengers in front of oncoming trains, and the film seamlessly shifts into a much gloomier tone.

But for every force of darkness, there is light. Here, Bulscú meets Szofi, the daughter of an alcoholic train driver who gets to ride the metro for free. She’s almost always dressed up like a teddy bear, but it’s never really made clear why. It’s implied that she wears it for work, but I think she wears it just because she’s endearing and quirky. If the Pusher represents fear and aggression, then Szofi represents guidance and love. A movie can be both artsy and entertaining after all!

Some of the more memorable supporting characters include Bulcsú’s ragtag team of inspectors – Professor, a sage in his own right, Lecsó, who has some anger issues, Muki, the narcoleptic comic-relief, and Tibi, the new guy. There’s some competition from Gonzó and his inspection team, and repression in the form of a sinister metro manager. We also get to see some interesting passengers come and go, always screaming about the injustices forced upon them by the inspectors and trying to retaliate

There’s a really fantastic montage sequence in the film in which all of the inspectors are required to be evaluated by a psychiatrist. This sequence takes place between some really intense, edge-of-your-seat scenes, and it provides some much needed humor. It also serves to show just how screwed up these people’s jobs are. They’re enforcing the law and making sure people pay their dues, but everybody hates them for it. This is really the thematic core of the film, and everything else is designed to create an entire dystopian vibe around it.

I don’t want to spoil this movie too much or anything, so I’ll just say that the ending is similar to Fight Club, but not exactly the same. It’s more open-ended, and I really appreciate that it lets you do the interpreting yourself. It’s definitely a thinker if you want to get into it.

From a technical aspect, this film is very impressive for its minuscule budget. It was all filmed on location during the metro’s off hours, which gave them only about five hours a night to work. All of the stunts are real – they used real trains and everything, which is kind of scary. I don’t know what they did with the lighting to make it look so good on camera, but it worked wonderfully! There are a few continuity errors, but overall, it’s crafted with extraordinary quality and care.

I’m not sure how available this is in the States or Canada or wherever you might be right now, but I’d definitely recommend it if you can manage to get your hands on it. The actors speak a weird language and you won’t want to go near a subway platform for a while, but it’s funny and crazy and all the good things a modern movie should be!

(By the way, the rating is a Hungarian toast. It means “to your health.” Just so you don’t think I snuck in some adult material on a PG-13 site…).

Fear the furry wrath of Pooh!
Fear the furry wrath of Pooh!


  • This was the first Hungarian film on the Cannes Film Festival in 20 years.
  • In an Interview, director Nimród Antal said that Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solyaris (1972) was a great inspiration for his film.
  • Gábor Piroch, the famous Hungarian stuntman, left the Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines production for two days to help with this Hungarian production.
  • The stunt work at the end of the “railrun” between Bulcsú and Gonzó when the underground almost hits Gonzó is real, and no special effects where used.
  • Hungarians are notoriously mean to strangers. The movie didn’t exaggerate that part at all.
  • And yes, Hungarian women do dress like that in broad daylight.
  • How insane would you have to be to do the rail-runnings?
  • The drunken woman on the escalator at the beginning of the film is wearing a belt which moves around between shots.
  • The part where Tibi accidentally hits a column during the Bootsie chase wasn’t in the script, but the director decided to keep it in the movie.
  • There are no clues to who or what the Árnyék is.
  • The film includes an introduction by the director of the Budapest Metro, who says that the film is a work of fiction and that employees of the Metro don’t behave as shown.
  • A couple of Hungarian directors have cameos in this film: Gábor Herendi as one of the ambulance crew, and Péter Bergendy as a bearded ticket inspector during the staff briefing scene.

Groovy Quotes

Szofi: [at subway vending machines] Nice place. Come here often?
Bulcsú: Only when I really want to impress a girl.

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