Certainly the only movie you’ll find that features suicidal
sharpshooters, magic bullets, living paintings, time tripping rabbits,
the Virgin Mary and the Devil, THE MAGIC HUNTER may not be perfect, but
it is required viewing for
cult movie buffs.
This 1994 effort was the second film by Hungary’s
Ildiko Enyedi, following 1990’s well-received MY TWENTIETH CENTURY. THE
MAGIC HUNTER (BUVOS VADASZ) wasn’t nearly as celebrated as MY TWENTIETH
CENTURY, although it did receive a brief U.S. release courtesy of
presenter David Bowie(!). That release, FYI, was in Hungarian with
English subtitles, a big improvement over the dreadful English dubbing
that accompanied the film’s North American film festival screenings.
In the horror and chaos of WWII a mother tells her
daughter a story about the devil. According to the story, “Whoever sells
his soul to the devil gets seven bullets in return,” each of which is
guaranteed to hit its target. Cut to modern-day Budapest, where police
sharpshooter Max accidentally shoots a woman he was supposed to protect.
Cut to a small village in the middle ages, where the Devil, in the form
of a wily longhair with tiny horns sprouting from his head, is afoot.
The latter builds a small bridge over a stream, claiming that anyone who
crosses it will be under his dominion--until one day a snail makes its
way across the bridge, nullifying the Devil’s power.
Back in the present a despairing Max tries to shoot
himself in the head and, unbelievably enough, misses. His young
daughter, meanwhile, appears to have some connection to other time
periods, as does a shady man who gives Max several bullets--and is
recognizable as the Devil from the middle-ages set sequences. The latter
hasn’t changed his ways, cajoling Max’s daughter into stealing the
Back in the middle ages a rabbit is chased by dogs, and
finds refuge in a painting of the Virgin Mary that periodically comes to
life. Said painting is on display in a modern museum when it suddenly
comes to life again, releasing the Virgin Mary and the rabbit into the
here-and-now, and just in time for a violent incident involving Max and
one of the magic bullets.
Directorially this film can only be classified as a
wildly mixed bag, with moments of brilliance juxtaposed with a lot of
clumsiness and amateurism. The transitions between centuries (a dash
through a dark tunnel turning into an X-ray view of blood rushing
through veins, a teardrop that becomes a rainstorm) are bold and
impressive, as is the magisterial use of music. (In its juxtaposition of
differing time periods populated by recurring performers in varying
guises the film these days plays like an arthouse variant on CLOUD
Unfortunately Ildiko Enyedi evinces little skill in
directing actors, with Gary Kemp sleepwalking his way through the lead
role and the domestic scenes between he and Sadie Frost (a real-life
couple at the time) falling hopelessly flat. The strongest sequences are
those set in the middle ages, which are convincingly depicted and have
an energy the rest of the film lacks.
At least the modern day-set ending is good, bringing
together several of the elements of the preceding segments in a most
imaginative and enchanting manner.
THE MAGIC HUNTER (BUVOS VADASZ)
Director: Ildiko Enyedi
Producers: Andras Hamori, Wieland Schulz-Keil
Screenplay: Ildiko Enyedi, Laszlo Laszlo Revesz
Cinematography: Tibor Mathe
Editing: Maria Rigo
Cast: Gary Kemp, Sadie Frost, Alexander Kaidanovsky, Peter Vallai,
Mathias Gnadinger, Alexandra Wasscher, Ildiko Toth, Natalie Conde,
Zoltan Gera, Philippe Dudos