Latest Review – Laurin [Blu-ray] [Second Run]


Second Run

Dir. Robert Sigl

Genre: Gothic | Mystery | Drama • Year: 1988 • Country: Hungary | Germany • Running Time: 84 minutes • Certificate: 18 • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 • Image: Colour • Language: English | German • Region: Region Free • Video: 1080p High Definition [Resolution] | MPEG-4 AVC [Codec] | 24fps • Audio: English 1.0 Mono LPCM | German 2.0 Dual-Mono LPCM (48khz/16-bit) • Subtitles: English

Rich, evocative imagery and a haunting, ominous atmosphere pervade German filmmaker Robert Sigl’s striking debut feature, a slow burning, mist-shrouded gothic chiller, set in an unspecified German port village sometime in the late nineteenth century.

We are first introduced to Laurin (Dóra Szinetár) as a young girl of about ten, surrounded by loss and isolation. Her sailor father is constantly away on business in the big city, her mother dies in mysterious circumstances and she is left in the care of her grandmother Olga (Hédi Temessy), though she still sleeps in a baby’s cot, despite her age.

She spends her days spying on her neighbours from an upstairs window or lost in her story books, but by night she is haunted by sinister visions of a child-killer stalking the streets. Outside the dream-world, children are disappearing in circumstances as mysterious as those which took her mother.

The village is on edge though life goes on as normal. The children return to school. Bullies persecute her closest friend Stefan (Barnabás Tóth). A strange new teacher appears in the classroom. Meanwhile, the killer continues to haunt the streets. Time passes but just how long is unspecified. Laurin grows as she learns of the cruelty of the world and we begin to witness a subtle change in character. The nightmarish visions soon begin blur with reality as we struggle to distinguish fantasy from truth. It is real-life horror experienced through a child’s eyes.

Conjuring the unsettling folk tales of the Brothers Grimm, the macabre tones of Mario Bava, and the frightening realism of Charles Laughton’s expressionistic noir-thriller The Night of the Hunter (1955), Laurin has often been mislabelled as fairly run-of-the-mill gothic horror over the years but this assured debut film is so much more than that.

Sigl digs much deeper that the standard Gothic conventions, drawing on traditions in the purest forms, free from many of the stereotypical genre tropes. What unfolds is an exercise in the unsettling and the uneasy, full of repetition and parallel images to unsettle and disconcert the viewer. Each frame filled with a sense of foreboding.

Sigl is careful that the film never descends into heightened giallo-esque melodrama. It remains incredibly restrained and significantly more menacing for it. A disturbing coming-of-age chiller elevated by its understated approach, sublime production design and poetic cinematography courtesy of Nyika Jancsó, son of the great Hungarian filmmakers Miklos Jancso and Marta Meszaros.

Perhaps the only negative aspect of the film is the largely clunky post-synched dubbing, which can be off-putting given the poor quality of the dub.

Filmed on location in Hungary due to budget restrictions, the film was actually shot in English – despite Sigl being German and the majority of the cast being Hungarian – with the final soundtracks being re-dubbed in English and German (for German TV broadcast) after the fact. Sigl’s reasoning was a sound one as it was to make the film more appealing for the English market, however it all just feels rather jarring given the sublime quality of the visuals.

Laurin is presented on UK premiere Blu-ray complete and uncut from a 2017 HD transfer approved by director Robert Sigl, featuring both English and German language versions with new and improved English subtitle translation of the German version.

The restoration is outstanding and the visual presentation is hugely impressive. Colours are rich, beautiful rendered and really pop, with vibrant greens, atmospheric reds and deep inky blacks. It really brings out the gothic colour palette and painterly tones.

The dubbed English 1.0 Mono LPCM and  German 2.0 Dual-Mono LPCM are both excellent with crisp, clean dialogue and good ambience, though the subtitles for the English language version are translated from the German version and often paraphrase a lot of the English dialogue.

Special features include an archival ‘Making Of’ documentary from 1988, great interviews with Dóra Szinetár, Barnabás Tóth and Nyika Jancsó, a video appreciation by film historian Jonathan Rigby, and two of Robert Sigl’s award-winning short films: The Christmas Tree (Der Weihnachtsbaum, 1983) and Coronoia 21 (2021), as well as an accompanying 12-page booklet featuring a fabulous new essay by film writer and critic James Oliver.

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