The last time I was in Budapest was for the never-ending Zsziget Festival where I was terrified by a bunch of 7-year-olds who robbed me of my Dairy Lea segments. So it was with a small sprinkling of trepidation that I once again emersed myself in the stunning Romanesque and Baroque architecture of Lili Horvat’s psychodrama based in the split city.

Sounding more like the latest album from a Massachusetts post-rock band, Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time follows top Neurosurgeon Marta Vizy (Stork) as she moves back to her Hungarian birth town to follow a man she briefly met at a conference in New Jersey. Not swapping any contact details after their supposed love at first sight water-cooler chat, she meets at the predesignated spot three months later only to find her new squeeze, fellow surgeon Janos Drexler (Bodo), has no memory of her whatsoever.

After briefly considering moving back to the States, Vizy decides to stay on in Budapest and work at the local overrun hospital, while following Drexler to work out exactly what is going on.

Basing itself in the world of neuroscience allows Horvat to delve into the world of the mind, memory, need, and consciousness easily without the need of arty meta gear changes. The enigmatic meeting with Drexler becomes the basis of Vixy’s counselling sessions and, as we see her slowly start to disbelieve her own recollections, we begin to witness her loosening grip on reality. Horvat’s narrative is however intentionally ambiguous, and as relationships start to unexpectedly build in Vixy’s life, we are constantly caught between differing views of the truth.

Stork’s excellent tempered performance manages to pull the narrative through a slightly stodgy final third, keeping the tension in her expression alone throughout. With any story which intentionally hides its meaning behind a psychological enigma, the pay-off is all important, and in this Preparations lets itself down with a disappointing whimper of a final result.

That said, Preparations is a generally well-paced drama that keeps its cards close to its chest throughout its short running time, with two excellent main performances from Stork and Bodo.

Dir: Lili Horvat

Scr: Lili Horvat

Cast: Natasa Stork, Viktor Bodo, Benett Vilmanyi

Prd: Dóra Csernátony, Lili Horvat, Péter Miskolczi

DOP: Róbert Maly

Music:Gábor Keresztes

Country: Hungary

Year: 2021

Run Time: 95 minutes

Exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema – Friday 19th March

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