Hungary’s film industry is one of the world’s most renowned. The country has produced a plethora of famous directors, such as Béla Tarr, Miklós Jancsó, and István Szabó, who have gained international recognition for their films.

But where did it all start and how has it been able to produce some of cinema’s most important films and filmmakers?

To answer that question, we need to first begin with the Budapest School Film Movement.

Budapest School Film Movement

What Is the Budapest School Film Movement?

The Budapest School is a film movement that blossomed into a student filmmaking community in Budapest, Hungary, during the 1960s.

The group combined neorealism and surrealism, with roughly equal emphasis on both styles.

The four founding members of the Budapest School were István Dárday, Györgyi Szalai, Judit Ember and Pál Schiffer.. The first three filmmakers studied under Jancsó at the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest.

They were inspired by his unique approach to filmmaking, which combined realism with surrealism and symbolism.


What Is The Budapest School Film Movement?

The “Budapest School” is a term used to describe a group of filmmakers that emerged in Hungary during the 1970s and early 1980s.

The main founders and leaders of the group were István Dárday, Györgyi Szalai, Judit Ember and Pál Schiffer.

Many young and sometimes amateur artists were invited to the group by fellow filmmakers, especially Béla Tarr, who made his debut film at the age of 22 with financing from the Béla Balázs Studios.

These four men were not just friends with each other but also very close friends with Tarr (who would later be considered one of the most influential directors in history.) The school took its name from its access to one of Hungary’s top film schools.

The Budapest School was born out of frustration with the post-WWII dominance of Socialist Realism in cinema. Socialist Realism was a strict and formulaic style of filmmaking that aimed to show life in the most realistic light possible.

It lacked imagination and creativity, which is why the four founders wanted to bring emotion back into their films.

History Of The Budapest School Film Movement

The 60s and early 70s were a time of great upheaval in Hungary. The crushing of the 1956 Hungarian revolution had left the country in a state of shock, and in 1968, Russian tanks rolled into Budapest to quash protests against communist rule.

The country’s film industry was affected by these events, with many of its filmmakers being forced into exile. In 1963, critics Miklos Haraszti and Ivan Szelenyi had issued a manifesto calling for “a cinema without illusions”, which could not be achieved under the current regime.

“We are not saying that there is no place for fantasy in our cinema,” they wrote. “We just do not want it to be a magic mirror reflecting an imaginary world from which we escape into reality… Instead, we want to make films that are like open doors through which we can enter and leave at will.”

This was a call for revolution, but one that was both aesthetic and political. These filmmakers wanted to develop a new kind of cinema that used stylistic devices to challenge the viewer’s perceptions; one that would engage with social issues as well as being entertaining.


The result was what became known as the ‘Budapest School’ — a movement whose influence spread far beyond Hungary’s borders.

Essential Filmmakers Of The Budapest School Film Movement

The start of the 20th century saw a group of talented individuals emerge in Budapest and start a film movement that would go on to leave its mark on the world. 

In fact, they are now considered part of the ‘Budapest School’ of filmmaking, which included directors like Laszlo Kovacs (Kollektor), Peter Forgacs (Amok, Fekete Vonat) and Bela Tarr (Satantango).

These filmmakers all shared some common traits; they were all against commercial cinema and believed that films should be made by artists, not businessmen.Tarr was one of the leading lights in this movement, but he wasn’t always destined for fame and glory.

Born in 1943, in Gyula, Hungary where his family moved after World War II, Tarr had very humble beginnings. His father worked as a railway station master and his mother was a teacher.

He grew up with four siblings, three older sisters and an elder brother who had Down’s syndrome. As a child, Tarr took piano lessons and eventually became a music school teacher himself, but it wasn’t long before he decided to try his hand at film-making instead.

Essential Films Of The Budapest School Film Movement

The Budapest School of Filmmaking is a form of art or cinematic style which was produced in the era after World War II. 

The movement was heavily influenced by the theories of Marxism and psychoanalysis, and focused on formal experimentation and intellectual concepts over popular appeal.

This school of art was founded by filmmakers who studied each other’s films and used their knowledge to develop the movement. In order to understand this film movement fully, it is important to look at the history and evolution of this style.

Tarkovsky, Tarr and Szabo are considered as the three most important directors of the Movement. Their films are known as masterpieces for their experimental style and technical achievements in filmmaking.

Other important directors of this movement include Forgács, Makk, Pálmai and Wimmer among others. The roots of this movement lie in Russia-the Soviet Union-and its communist party.

As early as the 1920s, cinema had come to be considered an essential tool for influencing public opinion throughout Russia. By the 1930s, several artists, including Dovzhenko, were making films which were labeled political propaganda by critics.

These films often attempted to depict a communist utopia or some idealized version of life under communism. The ‘Soviet’ cinema continued till 1939.

Importance Of The Budapest School Film Movement

The Budapest School of Filmmaking is a group of films made in Hungary during the 1950s and 1960s. This movement was founded by Hungarian filmmakers who studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Budapest (now the Hungarian University of Theater and Film Arts).

The films were shot in studios with high budgets and technical quality, and often presented a bleak view of post-World War II Soviet-occupied Hungary. The films of this period are noted for their unique artistic style.

The movement’s name comes from a famous meeting place, the Café Gerbeaud on the Váci utca in Budapest (near St. Stephen’s Basilica, where the New York Café currently stands). The Café Gerbeaud was a favorite meeting place for artists and intellectuals before World War II.

During the war, it was destroyed together with the whole block. A new building was erected after the war on the same place.

The Café’s tradition continued until it closed down in 1973, being synonymous with its creators: János Mohácsi, János Bródy, Ferenc Bényei, Gábor Bódy and Sándor Déri. The founders of the Movement were inspired by French poet Paul Éluard’s “liber”.

Tarkovsky has been described as an “auteur” whose works rank among the greatest achievements of cinema. It is sometimes considered to be synonymous with the notion of “author” (the person who created something) and is closely associated with formalism and intuition.

Budapest School Film Movement Theory

While there are many different and often opposing viewpoints on what constitutes a great film and how it should be made, the work of Károly Makk, András Bálint, Iván Darvas and László Rajk has been collectively termed the “Budapest School” or “Budapest Film Movement.” 

The term was popularized by Hollywood screenwriter, William Goldman, in his book Which Lie Did I Tell? A Guide to the Screenplay.

The movement was a reaction against socialist realism in the years following World War II. 

Through their writing and filmmaking, they attempted to bring a fresh perspective to the genre and raise up the social status of filmmakers in Hungary.

Their films have an improvisational feel to them, as they sought out new forms of original expression. 

The movement was characterized by its absurdist tendencies, dark humor and experimentation with visual imagery.

More than any other nation at the time, Hungary had a diverse theater scene with many different genres being produced such as comedy, tragedy, political satire, musicals and film noir. This diversity would eventually help shape the movement’s unique style.

These films were also known for their use of long takes that lasted several minutes without any cuts. 

This group is referred to as the “Budapest School” and these theorists and critics include: Béla Balázs, Ágnes Hranitzky, György Kádár, Iván Hevesi, Márton Kalász, Gyula Illyés and Lajos Bíró.

The End Of The Budapest School Film Movement

You may have heard of the Hungarian New Wave, but have you heard of the Hungarian New Wave cinema movement? 

If so, you may be familiar with a few names: Bela Tarr, Ivan Szabo, and Miklos Jancso.

These three directors are commonly referred to as The Budapest School film movement, a group of filmmakers from the ’70s that were known for their very long takes and less-is-more approach in filmmaking.

This group of filmmakers were heavily influenced by German Expressionism and Soviet Montage. They utilized these two styles of filmmaking to create a unique style of their own.

Their goal was to make films that were more stylized than their predecessors, and their works focused on human conditions and struggles. The movement is credited with changing the way filmmakers look at long takes in movies.

Before this movement, it was believed that editing helped tell the story better. And while editing can do wonders for a film, there are times when cutting can actually ruin a shot or even a scene.

The long takes used by The Budapest School film movement proved that point time and time again. However, this school of cinema didn’t last very long.

With the death of Bela Tarr in 2014, there aren’t any members left.

Budapest School Film Movement – Wrapping Up

The movement was a success, with the films being seen by over half the population and gaining international success. The movement was certainly not meant to be a permanent one but was an influential one.

It gave a voice to people who were not usually represented in cinema. Most importantly, it expanded the definition of film and its capabilities as a medium.

The movement’s most iconic films include Birds, directed by László Nemeskuric, and Everything I Can Imagine, directed by Péter Gothár. 

I’ve only managed to watch one of these films so far, specifically Everything I Can Imagine, which is a very powerful film and demonstrates how much can be achieved with a mere 11 minutes of film. 

It is about a female painter who has been abandoned by her husband in their dream house.

She does not leave because she has imagined that if she stays there long enough, her husband will return and the relationship will be repaired. 

As she waits for him, she starts painting on the walls of the house from which he has disappeared.