Magic Realism, Minimalist Realism and the Figuration of the Tableau in Contemporary Hungarian and Romanian Cinema

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Abstract

The paper surveys two modes of representation present in contemporary Hungarian and Romanian cinema, namely magic realism and minimalist realism, as two ways of rendering the “real” in the Central Eastern European geocultural context. New Hungarian Film tends to display narratives that share the features of what is generally assumed as being magic realist, accompanied by a high degree of stylization, while New Romanian Cinema is more attracted to creating austere, micro-realistic universes. The paper argues that albeit apparently being forking modes of representation that traverse distinct routes, magic realism and minimalist realism share a set of common elements and, what this study especially focuses on, converge in the preference for the tableau aesthetic. The paper examines the role of tableau compositions and tableaux vivants in representative films of the Young Hungarian Film and the Romanian New Wave, namely Szabolcs Hajdu’s Bibliothèque Pascal (2010) and Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills (După dealuri, 2012). An excessive use of the tableau can be detected in both films, with many thematic connections, in subtle interwovenness with female identiy and corporeality performed as a site of traumatic experiences, upon which (institutional, colonial) power relations are reinscribed. The tableau as a figuration of intermediality performs the tension between the sensation of the “real” and its reframed image, and proves especially suitable for mediating between low-key realism and highly stylized forms.1

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