Heartland Film Festival 2015: Movie Review – The Ambassador to Bern (2014)

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  • Narrative Feature / Hungary
  • Director: Attila Szász
  • Writer: Norbert Köbli

This review is part of my coverage of 2015’s Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. Click here for more of my coverage of the festival. You can find my coverage of other Indianapolis area film and TV events here.

The Ambassador to Bern is a dramatic retelling of an incident that occurred in the aftermath of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. On August 16th, 1958, two Hungarian immigrants broke into the Hungarian embassy in Bern and took the ambassador hostage at gunpoint. This film tells a version or the story that happened on that day.

Ambassador begins with a voiceover dumping the exposition and context for the period setting in one fell swoop. For a 76 minute film, this is all but a necessity. However, it put me off as someone who’s woefully ignorant of the Hungarian history on which this movie is based. Included in the voiceover was information about an incident that was the motivator for the events in the film. This vital information would have been better suited to expository dialogue. As is, the plot and motivations of characters were a little hard to get a handle on.

As for the drama that unfolds in The Ambassador to Bern, it’s engaging and tense. The two Hungarian men are well drawn and I especially appreciated their dynamic when it was clear they were not on the same page. It was made clear early on that one of them in particular was too erratic for the other to handle. The dialogue between these characters kept me engaged enough to anticipate the outcome even though the context was a little lost on me.

The film looks beautiful. It captures a drab 50s aesthetic that puts emphasis on dark, muted colors. These visuals help punctuate the tension in a way that makes you feel slightly uneasy throughout the movie.

However, these visual flourishes and engaging tension would have been more fulfilling for me as a viewer if I had a more firm grasp on the culture, history, and context for the characters’ motivations. Having lost those early in the film, The Ambassador to Bern became a struggle to connect with.

Obsessive Grade – 6.0/10

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