Tallinn 2021 Review: No-Budget Dystopia PERPETUITY Offers a Temporary Band-Aid

From Hungary comes a dystopian drama by filmmaker György Pálfi.

Contributor; Slovakia (@martykudlac)
Tallinn 2021 Review: No-Budget Dystopia PERPETUITY Offers a Temporary Band-Aid

The celebrated and acclaimed Hungarian director György Pálfi premiered his latest work, Perpetuity, in the main competition of the Estonian film festival.

Pálfi became the rare breed of a filmmaker whose works are sought after, though the funding does not come easily. After a rather avantgardish adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's philosophical sci-fi His Master's Voice, the Hungarian trailblazer returns to lo-fi filmmaking.

Originally scheduled for 2016, Perpetuity, then known as For Ever (based on a short story by Sándor Tar), has been awaiting post-production in 2015 (read the news). The project seemed to fall into oblivion until the news transpired that Pálfi is finalizing a batch of three films, Perpetuity being one of them.

Set in the near future, Ocsenás is wandering a post-apocalyptic Hungarian countryside salvaging scrap amidst wreckages from shot-down planes. Europe has been in a war for some years and Ocsenás has been helping out in a local hospital. Injured soldiers keep pouring in but the circumstances of their wounds and traumas are not discussed openly.

The protagonist spends free time in a local pub that doubles as a pawn shop, where he is exchanging scrap for bottles of moonshine. The whole village appears to run on alcohol; no other currency is used in the transactions.


The village with dilapidated houses is sparsely inhabited; old men unsuitable for combat are hanging in the pub while the remaining civilians are being terrorized by an unknown sniper. His most frequent targets are women and children, so Ocsenás does not bother him. Soon enough, the protagonist finds a new buddy, a local drunkard and an odd duck, and another lost existence in the wasteland, Béres who keeps a crash-surviving steward as his personal pet.

Not much action takes place in the desolate world of Perpetuity. Ocsenás navigates the place of ennui and a little meaning, the veneer of civilization and humanity come undone. Pálfi's latest film appears to be an attempt to marry genre filmmaking to an existential slow cinema concept with an obvious political bent.

The village appears to live in a bubble of its own and it is not hard to find parallels with the current times, when society is over-polarized and radicalized. The main protagonist attempts to find a little happiness and joie de vivre in the bleak reality which frequently leads to him acting like a big kid.

Perpetuity is a two-faced romance, a love story at the end of the world with Ocsenás courting a nurse in a strange manner and on odd bromance with violent Béres. The longing for human contact and camaraderie persevere in the hopeless times. The film's plotlessness corresponds to the purposeless wayfaring, a void that Béres attempts to filll by constant drinking and unprovoked violence.


The film shares a feeble vibe of disillusionment of mankind (or Orbán´s Hungary), resembling an Eastern European version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, whereas Pálfi frames the story in the idel state of communal cohabitation. Instead of McCarthy's light as a symbol of faith, characters in Pálfi's world pass around a bottle of alcohol, as if a social lube would be something indispensable to preserve sanity -- or prevent sober assessment of the situation -- in the face of the surrounding meaninglessness.

However, Perpetuity may serve as no more than a temporary band-aid until Pálfi's other films come out. The director has said that the shoot and the post-production was a no-budget affair he underwent with a tight-knit and dedicated film crew.

The finalized oeuvre exceeds the notions and expectations of a budgetless DIY exercise. In this sense, Perpetuity is a triumph of no-budget cinema.

Anna Nyitrai won the Best Production Design award for her work on Perpetuity at the 2021 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.


  • György Pálfi
  • György Pálfi
  • Zsófia Ruttkay
  • Sándor Tar
  • Attila Menszátor-Héresz
  • Tamás Polgár
  • Julia Ubrankovics
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György PálfiHungaryTallinn 2021Zsófia RuttkaySándor TarAttila Menszátor-HéreszTamás PolgárJulia UbrankovicsDrama

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