Why is this surprising? I've been sent a large number of "Ultra-Indies" of variable quality, some on self-published DVDs, some after limited distribution deals, some dubbed onto a VHS tape. When I received an email entitled "Greetings from Hungary" (from a first time director), I wasn't sure what to expect. When his package arrived containing a blank DVD case and a Sony DVD-R with a hand written label that read "Now You See Me, Now You Don't" in green ink (followed by the words "DVD
As it turns out, although this is director Attila Szász' first film, he has a good deal of experience as a director (of television commercials and music videos) and served as an editor of VOX Movie Magazine. The experience and film knowledge certainly shows here. However, to weave a tapestry like Now You See Me, Now You Don't, it takes a team. That one shot alone showed the cohesive talents of Cinematographer Tamás Keményffy, Editor László Hargittai and, of course Szasz as both director and writer.
That's not to mention the actress Dóra Létay. Letay portrays a suburban Mom who has her hands full watching her growing son Alex (Vitéz Ábrahám, whom we don't see clearly for a good bit of the film). What starts out as a normal, if subliminally sad, drama changes when Alex's Dad (played by Ernő Fekete) calls to check in. He says he has finally finished his big experiment at the lab, vows to be home soon and promises, perhaps ominously, to show the results of this victory to his wife.
What starts out as a seemingly provincial drama about a disfunctional family begins to take a strange turn towards pushing the boundaries of science fiction and psychological horror as soon as Fekete's character returns home with a strange, unmarked metal box under his arm. I stress that it pushes these boundaries because this film never quite over-steps them, as Szasz keeps his thrilling film both mysterious and upscale. It isn't long before Mom's watchful and protective eye starts to miss Alex as he plays until the point is reached that she can't find him at all. Is Alex right in front of her or is he gone forever... and what does Dad with his strange experiments and non-descript metal box have to do with all of this?
She doesn't know... we don't know... and Szasz isn't content to tell us until the very end of this very well done short film.
The story continues to compel throughout and actually manages to boast an ending worthy of its build up. Further the ending is satisfying in a way that makes the film not only worth the time it took to watch but also complete. Now You See Me, Now You Don't doesn't feel like a short film that exists because Szasz didn't have time or funds to make a feature. Now You See Me, Now You Don't feels like a short film that uses every bit of its half-hour runtime wisely, delivering a full, rich story in no more or less time than it requires.
Although the acting here is top notch (and the Hungarian Language sounds beautiful here), the film relies heavily on its deep, enthralling visuals to tell its tale. So many of these complex shots surround simple, mundane things, showing how much care has been put into each frame, but also perhaps showing that some of these seemingly ordinary moments might not be as simple or mundane as they appear. In short, none of this comes off as unnecessary or boring, none of these things are employed at the expense of the story itself. The entire vision builds to one, solid purpose and succeeds greatly at what it sets out to do.
It would be hard to praise this film too highly. True, this might not be for everyone, but I would wager that the universal appeal shown here greatly exceeds most films of its kind, long or short. I'm tossing it back and forth in my mind and considering all (art, intent, skill, execution, acting, lighting, directing, editing, sound), I simply can't think of enough of a reason not to give this film the full Five Stars out of Five. Now You See Me, Now You Don't is only the second "Ultra Indie" I've ever given the full Five to... but it is well-deserved. So far, this film has been the big surprise of Indie and Spring. Be warned, however, this is a tense and thrilling film, both logical and disturbing. As happy as I am with the film, I can say that there is a depth of discomfort within the film that works in its favor as well as forces the viewer to think about it long after it's over. They might not all be happy thoughts, but they will all be compelling. Ironic, though it may be, this is truly a must see about the Unseen!
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