Roland Barthes claims that a good photo is characterized by ‘punctum’ – he describes this phenomenon in his book Light Chamber, which he does not want to define – review by Anita Spingár-Westerlund.
Based on its Latin origin, it is described as a feeling that is evoked in us by reading the photo which pierces us then goes through us like an arrow. Something that does not let either our gaze or thought move on. Barthes mentions this concept in connection with a personal photograph and ever since then it has been an integral part of photography history, a subject of dispute, what is more, a kind of starting point of a certain approach.
Barthes just let us ponder over this concept connected to a photo depicting his dead mother. Because it pierced him when he looked at that photo. And we believe him. Because you can remember only people. And that is the reason why it feels like a blow in the stomach. Numbers or data do not evoke such a feeling and you cannot remember them, either.
You can remember Aldo or Little Aldo, in the voice of Klára. And you can remember Klára, as Aldo described her. And when you will not be able to remember their names, you will still be able to conjure up that particular feeling borrowed from photography, that punctum.
I believe there exists that type of film that you watch from the beginning to the end by keeping one, long breath, with such tension and attention that after 90 minutes you feel that your body is like an arch and your muscles release only when you exhale.
The film “Those who remained” is such a “one breath” film, but here it is your soul that is confined and curls up but in such intensity that it is released only on the third day. The film having clear images, only a few characters and shot almost exclusively in inner spaces (almost like in a theatre play) depicts something very important about the way love works.
Something so crucial that can be sensed only when the individual and historical fate has such a painful twist, and even then it can’t be seen any differently. It happens in a monochrome room, invisible to others. That might be the reason why the presence of the other characters can be so annoying.
Their presence is unnecessary, annoying because they are not connected to the fundamental point, they are similar to flies leaving their speck on the cake. Inside, in the room, from behind the yellow curtains the ancestor of love is creeping inside carefully. The one. Because there was the one and then categories, parts, types were created, but first there was the one.
This is unseen in normal times, it is triggered by desperate needs. And this film does not explain bare love, it even blocks it. The person who would explain it, does not understand it. It can be labelled as love between a man and a woman, deep friendship fueled by a firm clasp through a recovery from a serious injury, a relationship between parents and children, no matter what we call that.
That is the one type of love where everything originates from, that happens only in great fates as the rules of society do not tolerate irregularities, anything that does not fit into it, that cannot be defined, that does not have easily measurable sides.
This kind of clasp is not only poignant but lifesaving at the same time. Its foundation is the recognition that one person’s painful memories can live in another person as well. And if their memories live in each other, my memories live in someone else, and theirs in me, remembering makes a link.
We remember. If there is no remembering, there is no love, if there is no love, that is the time “when man was so debased” (Miklós Radnóti: Fragment).
“Those who remained” (2019), drama, 83 min
Directed by: Barnabás Tóth
Screenplay by: Barnabás Tóth, Klára Muhi
Produced by: Mónika Mécs, Enikő Mesterházy
Cast: Károly Hajduk, Abigél Szőke, Mari Nagy, Andor Lukáts, Adél Jordán, Eszter Balla