Written by Don't Panic
16 Wednesday 16th December 2009

Andrea Codrea Rado was at the ICA to witness the UK unveiling of exciting Hungarian flick Delta,featuring heartbreaking family drama.
Keen Eastern European geographers will be able to point out the obvious about Delta, it's not actually set in Hungary but rather in Romania. In fact, in part of Romania where no-one speaks Hungarian. For the purposes of the plot, however, this is of no consequence. The universality of the simple storyline could being taking place anywhere, and is not, in the words of screenwriter Yvette Biro, "about Hungarians". 
Delta follows the story of a young man who returns to his village after a long absence. His widowed mother has remarried and he is introduced to his grown-up sister (Orsolya Toth) for the first time. Mihail (Felix Lajko) sets out to build a house in the remote Danube delta; soon after his sister joins him and a romantic relationship ensues. They quickly become the talk of the town, to tragic ends following their housewarming party.  
This is a film about defying social convention and pursuing freedom at any cost. The message is clear but its deliverance is the film's shortcoming.The audience is given limited character history and virtually no explanation for the reasoning behind the protagonist's return to the village and his subsequent desire to build a house in the middle of the delta. The film verges on utter silence.  
But of course it's not about what is said, but what isn't. Lajko has no formal acting training. Which is pretty obvious. He is actually a professional musician and wrote the film's original score. Supposedly, he was chosen for the role owing to his ability to convey the softness at the heart of the film through his silence. It has to be said that the beauty of the delta is exquisitely captured by superb cinematography and set to the hauntingly hypnotic soundtrack. Which, at times, induces a dreamlike haze over the protagonists' idyllic surroundings.  
At such intimate junctures the directorial decision to have limited dialogue is spot on, and the choice of Lajko is self-explanatory. The delicacy of these moments is captured perfectly through body language and that which remains unspoken. The stilted bar scenes, however, are frustrating. The lack of dialogue is exasperating. Lajko's silence is less about that which goes unsaid and more to do with the fact that he simply can't act, and so doesn't.  
Far from demonstrating the community's inability to accept the couple, the harsh violence that punctuates the plot feels forced and only there for the sake of it, as though the director had "arthouse" stamped across the screenplay. It is at these points that the film falls short of its purpose, and rather feels more like a self-conscious attempt at something it fails to achieve.  
The beautiful cinematography and accompanying soundtrack cannot be faulted. Shame about the rest.
Delta is on release at the ICA and selected cinemas.


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