Director: András Jeles
Seen via: Undisclosed SourceRating: 7.5 / 10
You know the story: tempted by Lucifer and exiled from the garden of Eden after eating from the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve walk forth into a life of regret for their abandoned innocence. This is how The Annunciation begins, but it quickly falls into stranger territory after Lucifer causes Adam and Eve to hallucinate different eras throughout the future as a ploy to convince them that nothing but ruin and pain await humanity.
The first thing you'll likely notice about Hungarian director András Jeles' The Annunciation (adapted from the 1861 play The Tragedy of Man by fellow Hungarian Imre Madách) is the odd decision to populate the film exclusively with children. It's the obvious symbolic choice for the opening scene. But what about the remainder, which is soaked in high-level discourse, blood, and cryptic iconography? Imagine the most sincere grade-school stage play you can, rife with questions about determinism, the corrupt nature of society, and the fate of mankind, all taken with the utmost seriousness by its young actors. It sounds ridiculous, but Jeles manages to push it into the realm of the surreal with what seems to be sheer force of will.
Through all of this, four young actors play recurring roles and bookend the film as Adam, Eve, Lucifer, and Death. If there's a thematic trajectory that each of their performances follows, I'll be damned if I can see it. In fact, other than the general arc of the story, it's hard to pull any meaning from the sea of dialogue. (How much of this is due to translation, I'm not sure. Somehow I think that's not the primary issue.) The film is so dense and cryptic that teasing apart its meaning takes a backseat to the captivating visuals. This is the film's primary weakness: the signal is too frequently lost in the noise. I'm unsure that I would walk away more enlightened were I to watch it a second time.