Freelance writer specialising in serendipity: the art of finding wonderful things by accident or sagacity. Comments and suggestions always welcome!
In a world of blockbusters stuffed with computer-generated effects it can be easy to forget the importance of character and story. Fortunately films like The Door are here to remind us of these essential human elements.
The Door Helen Mirren
Set in Budapest in the 1960s, the film tells the story of a relationship between two very different women. Helen Mirren is the ageing maid Emerenc, who is legendary in the neighbourhood for her temper and her obsession with privacy. She will share afternoon tea in the courtyard of her block of flats, but no one is invited inside her rooms – ever.
When writer Magda (Martina Gedeck) moves across the street Emerenc agrees to work for her but she treats Magda with disdain while deferring to her husband Tibor (Károly Eperjes). Their relationship starts to change with the breaking of a platter as Magda shows that she too can be stubborn.
Later as Tibor undergoes risky surgery Emerenc opens up to Magda, part of her story pouring out as if the pain is still fresh. From this point different parts of her life are shown in flashback, helping to understand why she is so conflicted in her need for people and her privacy.
As their relationship develops Magda is finally invited into Emerenc's flat. Despite their sometimes stormy relationship, Magda grows to love Emerenc and she keeps the old woman's secret, but with tragic consequences.
Mirren's performance as the unpredictable Emerenc is wonderful. Gone is any hint of glamour as she portrays the stern and frumpy maid cleaning the street in all weathers. She is well supported by Gedeck's warm depiction of Magda.
Hungarian Istan Szabo, who won an Academy Award in 1981 for Mephisto, directed The Door. Much of the story takes place on the neighbourhood street and the rich cinematography makes it feel alive, especially with the symphonic score as a background. The costumes are well-done and varied as they range from Mirren's clumpy work boots and black babushka to Gedeck's well-to-do casualwear and evening dress.
These technical features plus fine acting and a compelling story make The Door an interesting and satisfying film for adults to enjoy.