The Round-Up

Set in a detention camp in Hungary in 1869 at a time of guerilla campaigns against the ruling Austrians.


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  • ★★★★½ review by Will McGrew on Letterboxd

    Film Number 12 of 30 Days, 30 Countries Project: Hungary

    Watching this movie about an Austrian POW camp, I realized that Schindler's List is a terrible Holocaust film. In The Round-up, Jancso tells the story of a prison that holds the last few survivors to the Hungarian resistance to the Austrian empire. The Austrian wardens are given to understand that almost all of the revolutionaries are held within the prison, but there are innocent people who are held as well. In order to find the revolutionaries, the Austrians employ cruel and devious tactics to break the prisoners mentally and get them to become an informer.

    What really elevates The Round-up above a typical war movie is the calm, procedural efficiency of the Austrians. Many such movies (and I'm thinking specifically of Ralph Fiennes' character in Schindler's List) utilize the trope of the psychopath. The evil of the psychopath is meant to be taken as a microcosm of the evil of the whole oppressive system. But this is seldom the case. One of the epiphanies I acquired from watching Shoah was that the greatest evils are perpetrated by efficient bureaucrats, not ruthless killers. I felt that The Round-up tapped into this concept in an extremely effective way.

  • ★★★★★ review by Rakestraw on Letterboxd

    Miklós Jancsó's The Round-Up is a work of staggering beauty; beauty that is, oddly enough, cultivated from the desolate, barren land of nothingness...otherwise known as the Hungarian Plain. However, one could easily mistake it for the earthly embodiment of Purgatory with its vast expanses of negative space, sediments of hopelessness and broken souls.

    The Round-Up takes place in and around a prison camp in the middle of this barren landscape, a mirage of authoritarian degradation. Instead of focusing on a central character, Jancsó chooses to the pass the torch of lead throughout. The magnificent camerawork from Tamás Somló involving glorious, contemplative long takes focusing on the current character's predicament, dollying left and right, back and forth, as if the character's are handing off the duty of inhabiting the frame for the time being, a temporary fixture in the land of futility.

    Somló and Jancsó's approach to the landscape is remarkable and undeniably integral to the film's wandering narrative. Establishing shots of the surrounding nothingness are peppered into a series of tight, close-up frames, as if reminding the viewer that these prisoners are nowhere, slowly eroding into the land through the systematic manipulation of an authoritative regime.

    Should be noted, however, that the prisoners are complicit in these manipulation tactics, they are more than willing to lie, cheat and steal their way to absolution, seemingly unaware of the all-encompassing emptiness around them. Nothing but false hopes and empty promises.

    The scene, wherein the camera slowly approaches the entrance, the doors open to reveal the prisoners walking in a circle, sacks over their heads clutching a rope with no end perfectly encapsulates the film and the prisoners current state of "existence".

  • ★★★★ review by Robert Beksinski on Letterboxd

    There is no central protagonists here only ideas. As soon as we begin to follow a character, an event or circumstance occurs that allows us to change course and follow another. In this sense, the audience is representative to an omniscient eye that has full movement and awareness looking into the processes and procedures of this specific detention camp. What we find is again no protagonists but instead the idea of a manipulative and tyrannical authority coercing their captives to turn against one another for their own benefit. It might be the ultimate portrait of betrayal and Miklós Jancsó achieves this in such easy subtle strides.

    On initial glance, Jancsó's non-narrative film (because its devoid of a concrete plot) takes some time to get use to but once the viewer allows themselves to be merely spectators rather than participants in the film they can bare witness to a near documentary account of the cruel and overreaching tendency of the authoritative hand. This is what is key importance to this film is the overall meaning and themes that it presents not in its characters or proceedings. These men are overpowered and unmatched in a controlling society that can even drive them against each other in hopes of a personal gain that will never materialize. The thought of reward is all the ruling forces need to extract the information that they seek. Essentially it is similar to watching caged animals while the master holds the food behind a barrier.

    The Round-Up is a restrained study of manipulative oppression and well crafted by the Hungarian auteur Miklós Jancsó.

  • ★★★★★ review by Edgar Cochran on Letterboxd

    A brilliant achievement. Jancsó shines and acquires international stardom among privileged circles of movie-watchers with this masterpiece that hit the jaw of abusive authorities like an uppercut. The technical influence on subsequent auteurs of great recognition is not absent. In my humble opinion, experience has told me that the more a director demands historical knowledge from the audience, the richer the content will be, and the more staggering the final message becomes.


  • ★★★★★ review by slyman on Letterboxd

    Around the World in 80 Films #12

    Port of Call: Hungary

    Film #17 ( A film that takes you out of your comfort zone!) of my Scavenger Hunt Challenge!

    Perhaps the best Prison film I have seen.

    Two word review: No escape

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