May 30, 2005 [Kontroll]

Kontroll is buried deep beneath Budapest, where the trains run in fluorescent melancholy--but the kontrollers checking tickets and the mad fools who ride the trains--and the killer who plays Death, hood and all--they burst out suddenly--and not in song, not always, but in kinetic action-movie chase-and-smash. The two worlds--one haloed in sluggish underwater-blue, the other hyperbang-zoom--fit the way all of us do in the underground: uneasily, but inevitably; no choice: we gotta go down there in the city to get somewhere else.

A few decades ago Jim and I were walking late at night in the city.  It was cold and drizzling, and for some perverse reason we figured we'd walk the subway tunnel.  So down we went, the passageway long and slanting down, then slanting up, so that we could never see too far ahead or behind us.  Did we talk about the possibility of imminent danger or did I only think it?  It was too long ago to remember.  But I'll never forget that straight upward-curving tiled path and a growing feeling that the Twilight Zone had been right after all, that some tunnels never end, they just become the rest of your life.

The existential Keystone Kops of Kontroll have little difficulty understanding that an underground life is entirely possible.  But the desire to escape, to walk into the light, as it were, becomes overwhelming.  I'm suddenly reminded of Plato and his Cave, an allegory for confused students that just may haunt this movie, where everyone's figured out how to play a completely ridiculous game, and the one guy who's smart enough to want out is, as far as everyone else is concerned, the real sucker.

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