I love that old movie “An Affair to Remember,” where a couple meet and fall in love. They agree to reunite on top of the Empire State Building in six months’ time if they still feel the same.
There have been three versions of that movie, four if you count “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Now, we can say five. Sort of.
A new Hungarian film – with the lengthy title “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time” (original title: “Felkészülés meghatározatlan ideig tartó együttlétre”) is a romantic mystery directed by Lili Horvát (“The Wednesday Child,” “Sunstroke”).
Here again, lovers agree to meet after a period of time. That’s where this Hitchcockian movie begins.
In “Preparations” we have a neurosurgeon, Dr. Márta Vizy (Natasa Stork), who meets another Hungarian brain surgeon at a medical conference in New Jersey where she works. After a brief affair (it takes place before the movie begins) they agree to meet on the Pest end of Liberty Bridge in Budapest on a certain date to pick up where they left off. But when she shows up, Dr. János Drexler (Viktor Bodó) professes to have never met her before.
What’s going on?
Is she going crazy?
No spoiler alert needed, for all this happens within the first few minutes of the movie.
Not to be deterred, Márta decides to stay in Hungary and takes a job in a small medical center where she’s overqualified to the chagrin of her co-workers. This allows her to follow her former lover (can we say “stalk”?) to try to figure out what’s going on.
And she starts seeing a therapist (Péter Tóth), putting forth her own desperate theory: “I wanted something so bad, that I forgot that I dreamed up the whole thing and lost myself in it.”
Is that the answer, that it has all taken place inside Márta’s head? Who better than a neurologist to understand the power of the mind to fabricate a much-desired reality?
“In many ways, Márta’s knottiest and most conflicted relationship is with her own mind,” observes one astute moviegoer. “Not only has she very possibly imagined her grand love affair out of thin air and a couple of charged glances, she is coolly aware of, and even professionally curious about, that very possibility.”
However, Márta’s therapist responds, “My intuition says that you would like me to diagnose you with some kind of personality disorder. So you’d get a medical paper saying your love didn’t cheat on you.”
Maybe there is more to it, she thinks, as she spots Dr. Drexler now stalking her. Now you see him, now you don’t. They walk on opposites of the street, Márta waiting for him to come to her. Yet he doesn’t acknowledge that they’ve met before, been lovers briefly back in America.
This tense psychological drama can be found on such streaming video platforms as Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and FandangoNOW – or with the Tropic’s virtual cinema.
The moody Budapest scenery reminds you of the tone of “Don’t Look Now.” The noir-ish plot offers hints of “A Beautiful Mind” or “Vertigo.” As for the outcome, will the story end as happily as “Sleepless in Seattle”? Or is Márta merely gaslighting herself?
The film begins with a quote from Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song,” a foreshadowing that goes: “I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead. (I think I made you up inside my head.)”
“Romantic, isn’t it?” says Dr. Márta Vizy.
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