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Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Developer (2013)

Director: Robert Odegnal
Stars: Tamás Mohai, Tímea Sághy, Iván Kamarás, Szabolcs Jáger and Richy Romwalter
This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.
The sci-fi short sets were more consistent than their horror equivalents at the 2014 International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival, but there were less great films than in 2013, when no less than five knocked my socks off: Ellie, The Secret Keeper, Restitution, Sol and Flashback, all of which were beaten out by White Room: 02B3, which affected me less but was admittedly put together with class. Only three pictures stood out at that level in 2014: LiFi, B-Class Cultural Heritage and this Hungarian neo-noir, The Developer, which won a deserved Best Sci-Fi Short award. It's a neat mix of live action and CGI, which occasionally makes it feel like a videogame. The graphics are dark and enticing, all yellow and black like a burgeoning bruise, with an oppressive sky weighing down on a dystopian landscape where everything says Gold Dimension, the name of the corporation that apparently runs the city and everything in it. And through this future world, a man drives another in a floating car to a house in the countryside.

In a way, this has similarities to The Secret Keeper, one of those great shorts from the 2013 festival. Both are set in damaged futures, where the lead character discovers something through their weird occupation that changes everything, both for themselves and others. However, the tones of the two films are utterly different, this one playing out with a mixture of noir iconography and cyberpunk tech. The lead character is the developer of the title, an interesting job that is later described by one of his employers as 'seer'. He strips down to his undies and sits in a bath of ice, he tapes photo paper to the shaved spot on the back of his head and he passes out. It'll come, he says, 'like a fast cut in a film' and he's talking about whoever it was that stole top secret documents from the murdered president of Gold Dimension; this is one of his apartments, where the crimes happened, and the residue of the act is still there ready for someone like the developer who can pick up the imprint. It's an intriguing idea and it's put to good use here.
Given that this is overtly film noir, albeit transplanted into the future where cars can fly and corporations run cities, there has to be a woman and she arrives in magnificent fashion, caught up in the visions of the developer as he merges the recent past with the recent future, visions that include his own death. As he returns to consciousness, he has to find a way to expose the villain without losing his life in the process. I have to admit that, while some of what happens from that point forward was obvious, I didn't see all of it coming and was impressed with the direction Aron Horvath spun the story. Inevitably it's the visuals that score highest here, not just the cityscapes and props but the trip the developer takes into the past; that's underpinned throughout by an intriguing progression of ideas. The actors may be the least of the various components in play, but they were well cast for looks as well as talent. I enjoyed the parts and the sum of the parts and am now eager to see more Hungarian science fiction.

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