“Well life isn’t always fair, my dear”
A new candidate for cinema’s best villain of 2016 emerges out of Kristóf Deák‘s Hungarian short Mindenki [Sing]. Her name is Miss Erika (Zsófia Szamosi), the Middle School choir conductor in charge of her school’s nationally recognized troupe of youngsters readying to defend their previous championships. She seems so wonderful and the kids who love her love her, but there’s more to her actions than kind-hearted and pure leadership leaving each student with a chocolate candy upon class end. Beneath this façade adored by principals and parents alike lies a cruel vindictive streak where victory becomes something to be achieved at all costs—including that of exploiting the innocence of youth and the weight of her authoritative position.
It’s difficult not to watch without seeing the allusions to America’s own charlatan-in-charge proving over and over again that lies are okay if they lead to his desired end-game. Here’s a teacher—a figure we are raised to respect with an unwavering loyalty despite questionable actions—who is quick to disseminate rhetoric about life not being fair but staunch in her refusal to lend those sentiments to herself. Rather than be about two girls (Dorka Hais‘ “Miss Popularity” Liza and Dorka Gáspárfalvi‘s newcomer Zsófi) opening their eyes to the injustice of an adult they believed in, this film is a metaphor for citizens finding the strength to stand-up to their oppressors. It’s about the power an underdog leader can wield in the fight for equality.
But it’s also a beautifully shot, nicely performed film with huge ambition. There’s a schoolyard sequence around halfway through where the camera weaves in and out of the children at play while Liza and Zsófi sing aloud their hand clapping game. Not without its moments of obvious calculation (a couple children seem as though they were motionless before moving on cue as the camera approaches), the set piece wonderfully portrays these children in their natural habitat at play—a universal notion of uninhibited expression that’s being stifled inside the schoolhouse doors. This is their in-plain-sight domain with which to plan their revolt, itself a humorous and empowering transfer of control. United we stand and united we fall. No one person should ever be above justice.