Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Strangled

Reviews - Strangled


Reviewed By Carol Rennie

The Hungarian psycho-thriller Strangled is based on the real-life serial murders of six women, and is shot in the actual location of the events: the small eastern town of Martfü. An innocent man is accused, beaten into a confession and sentenced for the first murder. Evidence undermining the case is brushed over by police, prosecutor and judge, eager to find a culprit. While some reviewers point to the pressures of the political environment at the time (shortly after the 1956 Hungarian uprising and its brutal suppression by the Soviets), it appears to be primarily for personal, professional motives that these men act so hastily. When the murders resume ten years later, they each struggle to prioritise the search for the serial killer over the imperative to hide that initial blunder and protect their own reputations. The relentless new prosecutor who compels them, and who brings the real perpetrator to justice, is killed by a hit-and- run driver after the event: presumably in revenge for his exposure of those mistakes. 

For genre fans, this is a beautifully filmed and excellently-crafted stalk and slash drama (I will confess to being one of those who screamed out loud!) – but it made for uneasy viewing for those of us who wonder about the widespread compulsive interest in serial killers, and worry about the exploitativeness of the vicarious thrill of the spectacle: the sensuous lingering on the bodies of the naked, often nameless victims. To be fair to director Arpad Sopsits, he does
not attempt to glorify or elevate the murderer:  when the psychological profile points to a likely case of “sexual inferiority”, the chief investigator maintains: “That’s true of most people” – there is no suggestion of any complex mind behind his aberration.

Sopsits successfully recreates a chauvinistic public sphere in which all the decision-makers are men, workplace sexual harassment is a given, and there is zero sensitivity to those victims who were attacked but escaped murder: they are crowded around and slapped awake in their hospital beds, to assist the detectives in their urgent search for the murderer.  

The film focuses on the investigators rather than the perpetrator or the victims of the crimes, and, perhaps rightly, leaves the viewer feeling hollow and appalled, both that such terrible crimes happen, and also that effective investigation and justice can be so easily derailed by egos and considerations of image: personal, professional, or state: "there are no serial killers in Hungary."

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