This film uses no dialog whatsoever to tell a story of murder in a small Hungarian village. That means no speaking between characters. That means no reaction shots. No words. … Which is interesting, because the film’s title is Hukkle (hiccup), and the character we meet first is an old man who spends the duration of the film on a bench hiccupping. Our principal witness is a elderly man robbed of his senses and unable to comunicate anything to us, but for the arrhythmic noises that perforate the film’s soundtrack.
If he’s our first character, the first creature we meet, however, is a snake. It is only one of many creatures and insects that populate the film. Each is given to us in scale, which is interesting. It’s as if Palfi has chosen to place all creatures great and small on the same level, none more priveleged than the other, all caught in the endless cycle of birth and death, feeding and being fed upon. The more I think about it, the more I think this is what his film is really about, and perhaps this is why there’s no speaking in the film.
His choice to tell a tale of mystery without use of narrative leads to an interesting inversion of image and sound. He virtually renounces the use of mis en scene to reveal what is happening between people. Each shot, instead of carrying and producing action, describes and observes a creature/character in its environment. Stitched together, the shots reveal what is happening to members of the village–but without our having a single motive or reason.
Where shot after shot gives us the facts, the soundtrack builds up in layer upon layer of natural and man-made sounds. Here Palfi uses the dialog-free soundtrack to great effect, because layering is a privelege of sound. Where images exclude one another, and can only be juxtaposed (through montage), sounds can be added to one another.
Hukkle is the film that Robbe Grillet might make today if he were not a French novelist. I hope to see more from this guy.