Matters of the Heart

Hungarian director Lili Horvát delivers her second film as director, following 2015’s The Wednesday Child. Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time is not exactly a title that trips off the tongue; rather you’re more likely to be tripping over it. But it’s about the only inelegant thing in this romantic drama that is – at least for a while – absorbingly mysterious.

Natasa Stork, an actress the camera unreservedly loves, plays Dr. Márta Vizy, a well-respected neurosurgeon who has been working in America. When we first meet her, she’s on a plane on the way back to her native Hungary. She makes no secret of the fact that she’s back for love, abandoning huge career opportunities overseas.

Yet the heart wants what the heart wants. A chance encounter with a fellow surgeon, János Drexler (Viktor Bodó), at an international medical conference left her head turned. We learn that they arranged to meet at the city’s Liberty Bridge – on the Pest side – but when he doesn’t show, it sparks an obsession in her. When she finds him, in a parking lot, he claims never to have met her.

Is she delusional? Horvát toys with this for some time, casting Márta as the enigmatic figure in the semi-deserted streets of the Hungarian capital. She rents a rundown apartment, simply because it has a view of the bridge where they were meant to meet, and she sits alone in her dwelling, contemplating her fate, her sanity too.

It all has the feel of a film made about forty years ago, a hardcore European arthouse movie of old. Horvát previously worked as the casting director on White God (as well as starring in it), the film by Kornél Mundruczó that he made before steering Vanessa Kirby to an Oscar nomination in Pieces of a Woman. Even if Preparations to be Together… doesn’t quite last the distance, with some prosaic revelations near the end, Horvát has a unique grasp of cinematic language. Whatever she does next will be fascinating to see.

Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time is available at Curzon Home Cinema. For more details, click here.

James Mottram