Natural Light collected a Silver Bear for Dénes Nagy as Best Director on Berlinale in 2021
Attentive to detail and faces, – director Denes Nagy cut his teeth making documentaries – the film follows Semetka as his unit takes up lodging in a local village. It is later caught in a mortal ambush, taking a path out of the village suggested by the local mayor, leaving Semetka in charge of survivors. When a sergeant major arrives to take over command, his reprisal against the villagers captures the inhuman horror of war. Semetka simply watches on, dazed, having done nothing to stop the tragedy.
“I wanted to observe a man who is not fully aware of what choices he must face,” Nagy has said to Variety earlier.
“What are the things that lead him to becoming part of a killing? What choices didn’t he make on the way? There is no clear answer to this,” he added.
The filmmaker graduated from the University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest in 2009. During his degree course, he spent a year as an exchange student at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB). In 2012, he participated in Berlinale Talents. His short film, “Soft Rain”, had its premiere in the 2013 Quinzaine des réalisateurs at Cannes and went on to screen at numerous international festivals where it won several awards. His documentary “Another Hungary” premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and his most recent documentary, “Harm”, at the Sarajevo Film Festival.
Natural Light – Denes Nagy’s debut feature
“Natural Light” is a tough, slow film that makes demands on its audience – though much of the real horror is as just-off-screen for us as it is for Corporal Semetka. But it’s also an absorbing, beautifully crafted, thought-provoking addition to the new Hungarian cinematic wave that started building, arguably, with Kornel Mundruczo’s “White God” in 2014, and continued in films such as Laszlo Nemes’ “Son of Saul” and Ildiko Enyedi’s “Of Body and Soul”.
Documentary director Nagy’s first foray into drama shares with those films a fresh new take on the formal possibilities of the medium, some impressive work with actors, and a tendency to recast personal, historical or political traumas as waking dreams and/or nightmares, which many viewers will relate to the strange realities and shifting narratives of today’s world, today’s Europe, or the Hungary of Viktor Orban. But most importantly, “Natural Light” is a slice of pure, bracing art-house cinema that will thrive long after its Berlinale competition debut. – reviewed by Screen Daily.
At first, the whole world is brown, like the rough wool uniforms of the World War II Hungarian soldiers – allies of the occupying German forces – who have been sent to a desperately cold, desperately poor region of the former Soviet Union to root out partisans. Soon enough, one face begins to emerge: that of Semetka (Ferenc Szabo), a corporal out of his comfort zone, whose point of view is adopted by Denes Nagy’s first fictional feature, and whose moral unease about the awful things he witnesses lies at the core of this remarkable debut.
Not just a war movie
Dénes Nagy’s powerful feature debut “Natural Light” is not just a war movie. Drenched in livid, humid light that makes faces look like they were painted in mud, it tells of a descent into the unknown by men who face constant moral dilemmas. What should one do to survive? To what extent should they put themselves first? How guilty are you if you witness horrible events you didn’t cause? As all their convictions about right and wrong are weakened, the men must decide whether to adapt or do the right thing.
The members of the International Jury – Ildikó Enyedi, Nadav Lapid, Adina Pintilie, Mohammad Rasoulof, Gianfranco Rosi and Jasmila Žbanić – have decided on the prizes in the Competition at the 71st Berlinale.
First Sales – ready for the silver screen
Luxbox clinches first sales as Paris-based Luxbox rolls out the Berlin Competition player at the European Film Market.
Luxbox has also licensed “Natural Light” to Benelux (“Cherry Pickers”) and Greece (“One From the Heart”). Vertigo Media will release the feature in Hungary. Further licensing deals are in negotiation, said Luxbox founders Fiorella Moretti and Hédi Zardi.
Fiorella Moretti and Hédi Zardi, Luxbox founders, called the deals a “promising EFM start for this remarkable debut. An absorbing WWII film that’s provoking word of mouth since its screenings.”