In his review of The Notebook, a Hungarian period piece that opens today at the Cedar Lee Theatre, critic Godfrey Cheshire noted that had the film not been based on a famous French novel by the same name, it probably wouldn’t have been green-lit for development. He makes a good case for his argument, citing a rather weak script (co-written by the book’s author, Ágota Kristóf). The film follows a familiar trajectory as it explores the life of two twins (András Gyémánt as One László Gyémánt as Other) after their mother dumps them off at their grandmother’s house to keep them safe (their father thinks that because they’re twins, they’re automatically subject to suspicion).
Their grandmother (Piroska Molnar) — a woman the locals call the Witch — treats them poorly and even though World War II appears to be coming to an end, they can’t escape its horrors as soldiers move in. In order to make themselves numb to their grandmother’s abuse, the twins take to beating themselves, impressing the military men in the process. It’s all rather twisted (and grim) and it’s no surprise that the film doesn’t provide a happy ending. As much as the film successfully shows the horrors of war, the lack of any real sympathetic character(s) (the twins are rather ruthless and cold) makes it a difficult movie to watch. And the film’s ending seems so out of sync with the rest of the story that it’s hard to find believable.