Látszatélet [Imitation of Life]

Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Writer: Kata Wéber and company
Cast: Lili Monori, Roland Rába, Annamária Láng, Zsombor Jéger, Dáriusz Kozma
Part of: Wiener Festwochen
Seen on: 24.5.2016

Lőrinc (Lili Monori) is sitting in her apartment, waiting for her son Szilveszter (Zsombor Jéger) to return. Instead of him, there’s Mihály (Roland Rába) who has come to throw Lőrinc out as she’s behind on rent. After the apartment is emptied, Veronika (Annamária Láng) moves in, and smuggles her little son Jónás (Dáriusz Kozma) into the apartment as well.

Despite great production design, strong performances and political intent, Látszatélet remains less insightful than it thinks it is, with an ending that dismantles in a few minutes what came before it.


Látszatélet is the fictional background story of an actual murder that took place in Budapest over 10 years ago: a Roma boy was stabbed on a bus by a young man who had ties to a neonazi organization. After protests against right-wing violence and racism, they found out that the attacker was also a Rom, making the story even more complex.Now, that story doesn’t really feature in the play itself. Rather what we get is an attempt to explain what could have motivated the attacker, stuck in poverty, with racism both inside and outside the Roma community (for the former because he is too blond, for the latter because he is Rom) and a difficult family background.

While that examination could have been interesting, ultimately it was a failure. In fact, I really enjoyed the play until the last minute or so when there was a completely unprovoked, unfitting and unnecessary kick in the direction of estranged, technology-obsessed millennials that was simply misplaced. Then everything went black and we got a small written epitaph about the real life connection (that until then was never actually part of the play) and the way it was phrased made me deeply uncomfortable. I don’t know the exact phrasing anymore, unfortunately, but it made things even less clear than before. Not only that, it somehow contradicted what came before it.

Latszatelet1In any case, that last minute or two had me leaving the theater with a very bitter taste in my mouth – and that although I had enjoyed the 98 minutes that came before it. I liked the combination of video and stage work and the performances were incredible – especially Lili Monori was amazing.

Productionwise, the pièce de résistance was that after Lőrinc’ part was over, the entire apartment – a fully furnished cube on stage – was slowly turned upside down in a 360° rotation. That of course meant that everything that wasn’t nailed down, was tossed – and they took care that there was enough to be tossed, including filling the cupboards in the apartment. It was not only fascinating to watch (and it took a while), but also highly symbolic.

But as much as I enjoyed most of the play, it simply didn’t really deliver all that I hoped it would.

Latszatelet2Summarizing: Worth seeing but beware the ending.

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