Demimonde (Félvilág)

Director: Attila Szász, Producer: Tamás Lajos & Tamás Mink, Production Company: Szupermodern Studio, Hungary, 88’, 2015 Rights: Selected territories.

A Costume drama set in Budapest, January 1914. A strangled woman’s body drifts ashore the icy river Danube. The victim is one of the most high-profile courtesans in town, Elza Mágnás, she has been brutally strangled and her body thrown into the icy water of the Danube.
Demimonde chronicles the last four days of Elza, her complex relationship with her housekeeper, her patron, and her lover, through the eyes of a young and naive maid. The bizarre and passionate relationship between them turns more and more complicated and dangerous by the men surrounding Elza (János Kulka and Péter Sándor) right till the shocking endgame. Inspired by a true story about love, passion, sex, power, and murder.
The arrival of new maid Kato to the Mágnás household instigates a complex dynamic between Kato, the housekeeper and Elza, the lady of the house and a well-known courtesan. Utilising Kato’s naivety for her own ends, the charismatic Elza draws her into a world of affairs and manipulation. However, when Kato’s presence and the attention Elza is bestowing on her begin to unravel the past dangerously, an unsettling set of events unfolds. Attila Szász’s film is a mesmerizingly-shot historical piece which draws upon the political landscape of 20th century Hungary and attitudes to women considered to be of lower moral standing. In so doing, Szász creates a compelling commentary on damaging secrets, manipulation and strange dynamics of co-dependence.
Lead actresses Patricia Kovács, Dorka Gryllus and Laura Döbrösi are impressive in carrying the tension and ambiguity of their relationships. Demimonde is a quiet but effective psychological mystery that intelligently navigates the evolution of the trio’s dynamic. The unsettling tone established in the opening scenes as such is able to escalate to a satisfying, albeit inevitable conclusion. With a multi-faceted narrative and clear political undertones hinted in the film’s title, ultimately its greatest strength is the characters.
Demimonde a TV film from the makers of the award-winning and festival success hostage drama “The Ambassador to Bern”.