States of the Arts


Woman in Factory with Windows

by Ilka Gedő

View an image of the artwork →

A woman faces away from us, occupied by an unseen task, assumed to be manual and menial. Detail is cast in shadow by looming machinery, the black pastel speckled with silver paint, lending it a metallic sheen at odds with its intimidating nature. The windows may sparkle with light, but they barely illuminate the scene inside. Only the figure’s calves and forearms come close in terms of colour, but they seem more jaundiced than golden. Far from a celebration of the industrial worker, Ilka Gedő’s Woman in Factory depicts a vulnerable individual confined within a harsh location.

Words by John Wadsworth

White God

directed by Kórnel Mundruczó
Feature film

View a still from the film →

A young girl cycles furiously through Budapest city centre, glancing over her shoulder as a large pack of dogs closes in behind, driven to violence for reasons unknown. Their motive is soon discovered. When fines are imposed upon owners of mixed-breed mutts, abandonments lead to an increase in homeless strays. Oppressed, abused, and imprisoned, these canines revolt and run riot. A taut thriller in the vein of Hitchcock’s The Birds¸ White God is also a powerful allegory, warning of the unrest that inequality and racism can catalyse.

Words by John Wadsworth


by László Krasznahorkai

View the book cover →

In the dilapidated farm on which Sátántangó is set, the rain never stops. Inhabitants are driven to prostitution, voyeurism, and attempted felicide. As news travels that a messianic man approaches, people gather in the local pub, in anticipation and intoxication. The writing that depicts them is as relentless as the downpour outside. László Krasznahorkai’s sentences are a ‘vast black river of type’. There are no line breaks; each of the twelve chapters consists of a single paragraph. Like the tango of the title, the chronology takes six steps forwards, six steps back, caught in the dance of the devil.

Words by John Wadsworth

Allegro Barbaro

by Béla Bartók

View an image of the composer →

Allegro Barbaro takes off at a sprint from a standing start, its pounding F sharp minor chords muddying a simple, spiky melody. Hungarian and Romanian folk traditions are overlaid, with pentatonic and chromatic elements shoving each other for space. There are a few moments of respite between the stamping rhythms and extreme mood shifts, but they do not last long. The composition that results is one of Béla Bartók’s most riotous piano pieces in a career full of them: it is brief, brash, and, as the title forewarns us, barbaric.

Words by John Wadsworth

More to discover

Woman in Factory with Windows: Read more about the artwork on The British Museum website. Read a biography of Ilka Gedő on the Fine Art in Hungary site.

White God: View the trailer here. Watch an excerpt here. Emily Buder has interviewed the director for IndieWire. Katherine Tarpinian has interviewed Teresa Ann Miller, the film's animal trainer, for The Creators Project.

Sátántangó: Read an excerpt on The Hungarian Review website. Adam Thirlwell has written about the novel for The New York Review of Books, and James Wood has written about László Krasznahorkai's work for The New Yorker.

Allegro Barbaro: Listen to Allegro Barbaro here. Download the score for free at the IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library website. Rich Brown has written about the composition for Good Music Speaks, as has Michael Ferry for SmartMusic.

Question of the day

Which Hungarian artworks would you recommend, and why? Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

Werckmeister Harmonies, a film directed by Béla Tarr. The opening sequence, in which a bunch of drunks act out a total eclipse, is one of my favourite scenes in the history of cinema. (→)

– Claire Carré, film director and editor (Embers) (via The Brief →)

On Body and Soul, a film directed by Ildikó Enyedi. It shows that we don’t just share this planet with each other, we share the same dreams. (→)

– Ann Marie Fleming, film director (Window Horses, The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam) (via The Brief →)

Read more: States of the Arts (Europe)