Written and Directed at Lili Horvát | 95 min | On Demand, TIFF Digital Lightbox
The central question the film, with its clumsily long title, is this: “Is what we perceive as real… real?” It’s a question of confidence in our own version of reality.
This is an entirely compelling question, one that seems especially timely when so many people these days hold so tightly to their belief in a separate set of so-called alternative facts. In this film the question is also tied up in a romantic quandary, which makes it that much more universal. The heart wants what it wants.
Vizy Márta (Natasa Stork) is a neurosurgeon, originally from Hungary, who’s spent the past 20 years in the ‘States building her career, if ignoring the possibilities of a lovelife. At a conference in New Jersey she meets a fellow Hungarian doctor, Drexler János (Viktor Bodó). She senses an immediate chemistry, and she *knows* he’s who she has been looking for. They agree to meet on the Pest side of the Liberty Bridge across the Danube a month hence.
She flies to be there, but he’s not on the bridge at the appropriate time. When she tracks him down at the university he works at, he says he doesn’t recognize her.
What’s going on here? Márta seems like an entirely rational, capable person: she’s a brain surgeon, fer chissakes. But, she can’t explain it. She’s about to return to the States, but she changes her mind. She’s going to stay for awhile, figure this out, even though this place is no longer her home.
This is a fascinating mystery. Her first suspicion is she has an emotional disorder, so she seeks out a therapist to help explore that possibility. Or could it be something with him? Is he lying, or worse, demented?
That this is all taking place between two professionals who work with the physical part of our brain matter makes it that much more engaging. There are moments where the film seeds all kinds of possibilities, and despite the suggest of multiple red herrings the element of conspiracy is compelling, or even the supernatural. If the truth revealed turns the film into more of a melodrama, it’s fine because it’s done in a lovely, nuanced way.
In the lead, in frequent close-up through the film’s running time, Natasa Stork is a magnetic presence. She sells this character as someone who is entirely capable, but with an absence at her core — something she can’t quite reconcile. Horvát channels a little Wim Wenders and a little Krzysztof Kieślowski for a tale that insinuates through its running time.
And if there’s a touch of the mundane in the final few scenes, that last shot of something heavy and difficult to move dangling in front of a window expresses the title delightfully. This has all been a precursor to something we can only imagine, but it’s really happening.
After much conjecture, it’s a sign of the perseverance of faith. Preparations To Be Together For An Unknown Period Of Time is an unusual film — it delivers a surprising and unexpected depth.