This film was awarded as the best in the ”Next Masters” section of the DOKLeipzig festival this autumn. Very well deserved as Klára Trencsényi already before (primarily with ”Bird’s Way”) has shown how masterful cinematography looks, when she is behind the camera. With ”Train to Adulthood” she adds to the skills by getting close to two families with kids – and huge social problems. She has made an emotionally strong documentary that is telling us about a social reality in Hungary, that could have taken place in other Eastern European countries. In one family: Mum and Dad work abroad, the kids live with their grandparents. In the other family: Mum lives with her three children but is forced out of her home as she can not pay rent and electricity.
Klára Trencsényi, however, frames her story about kids journey to leave childhood with a bitter-sweet story about them being part of
the so-called “Budapest Children’s Railway”. I quote from the description of the film: “This small-gauge railway system has been in continuous use since it was created for the “Pioneers”, Hungary’s communist youth organization in 1948. Nearly seventy years on, hundreds of thousands of passengers a year travel along the winding tracks of the Buda Hills in the same old carriages. The railway’s antiquated switches, levers, and telephones are operated by children between the ages of 10 and 14, who run all the stations and accompany passengers on their journey…”
So this is where Viktor and his sister Carmen go as well as Gergo. Their stay there, have fun, learn how to work together, dress up in nice train uniforms – I understand that they go “on biweekly shifts”, away from the harsh reality at home.
Viktor and Gergo get a voice in the film. You see their worry, especially Viktor, whose mother has to move into a single mother’s place, Viktor and Carmen come home, if you can call it a home, after time at the camp of the Children’s Railway. And Gergo argues with his parents that he does want to go to Germany as they think he should, to study. He wants to stay in Hungary, gets accepted to a school and can help the grandparents.
It’s not a bright picture that Klára Trencsényi paints of Hungary today through the description of the living conditions of the two families, a description, which is, I am sure, quite representative. Yet, you leave the film in the mood that they – against all odds – will make it, these kids, when they grow up. Or is this wishful thinking…?
Loved to watch that film. Let’s get more well built stories about what happens in Hungary. We have had enough of journalistic reports from a country that has fine filmmakers. Klára Trencsényi is one of them.
Hungary, 2015, 79 mins.