Set in the small town of Martfü, Hungary, in the 1960s, Strangled tells the tale of a psychotic killer, Bognár (Károly Hajduk), who continues to slaughter young women while an innocent man, Réti (Gábor Jászberényi), is wrongly accused and sentenced for crimes he could never have committed. A determined detective, Szirmai (Péter Bárnai), arrives on the scene to reopen the case while under pressure from the prosecutor, Bota (Zsolt Anger), to see a man hang.
What makes Strangled a curious watch is how it attempts to juggle different genres. It moves between Fincher-esque murder thriller, character study on incarceration and Hungarian period film. The narrative sprawls curiously in diverse directions and as the web of characters come closer together a great dramatic tension emerges.
Visually, the film revels in its depiction of 60s Hungary and it’s a genuine treat to the eyes. The period is brought to life through intuitive set design and costume and the cinematography perfectly captures a nation transitioning into modernity that is reminiscent of Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of a Murder. Réti was sentenced due to a miscarriage of justice authorised during the suppressed uprising of 58, after which law and order needed a show of force. Director Árpád Sopsits deftly weaves a subtle social critique, by exposing the corruption that created a monster.
While the movie is spinning a lot of plates, some work better than others. Sopsits, spends a little too much time within the realm of American crime thriller and gets bogged down in tired clichés: the surly, alcoholic veteran cop reluctantly teaming up with the young, motivated partner; the stilted CSI dialogue; the good cop-bad cop routines. Buried under these generic conventions is a poignant character study of a serial killer and the man who was imprisoned in his place. The latter’s harrowing experience gives the film some real humanist grit and the murder scenes viscerally depict an insane mind on the rampage.
Despite the many speed bumps of cliché along the journey, Strangled is an ambitious and vibrant thriller that artfully ties fascinating characters together in a complex web of lies, corruption and murder.
Strangled is released in selected cinemas on 17th November 2017.
Watch the trailer for Strangled here: