Short Film Review: Secret Matters (2015)

In this short documentary film, Secret Matters, written by Janos Zoltan, he explores the ways in which a reclusive writer (Gerald Murnane) shares his passions including reading, writing, enjoyment in playing golf, and mostly his own love affair with the Hungarian language.

In the film Gerald reads passages in Hungarian from his favourite text. He does this a couple of times during the interview. While the interview is constructed as an answer and question setting between the filmmaker and lead cast member, there are also times where Gerald by himself speaks of his endless passions in writing. This can be seen in the film, as he describes how during his life he previously taught fiction writing at Deakin University. His passion for writing increases as he shows his audience numerous texts he has written and the filing cabinets he organises all of his writing in.

The central themes of the love of writing and learning continue as Gerald mentions that he taught himself Hungarian after having read ‘Gyula Illyés’ People of the Puszta,’ as described in his essay ‘The Angel’s Son: Why I learned Hungarian late in life.’

The top three moments within this documentary depict a passion of learning, a fulfilment for all things writing, and understanding that you can find love in the most unexpected places.

The first can be seen within the scene where Gerald describes to his audience what ignited him to begin learning Hungarian. He states within the film that this is because he thought “angels speak it in heaven”. More so, what is really striking is how Gerald displays to the audience that it is possible to learn a language if you suddenly come across a phrase in a text, like he did. This therefore kick-started the passion of learning another language and therefore illustrates to his audience that whatever an individual desires to achieve, as long as they put their mind and soul into it, they will achieve it. Gerald is an example of this.

Gerald explains how he got to a point in his life at which he realised he wanted to write for others, not just himself. This sparked his creativity and helped him to persist writing his texts, as he was writing for a wider audience.

The sub-titles during the interview help readers understand the poetic elements within a language that is truly beautiful. This is depicted when Gerald imagines a love affair between himself and an Hungarian Freedom Fighter girl who he once saw during his youth. Gerald speaks fluently in Hungarian, as he reminisces of the time he saw her. In 1956 the Hungarian Revolution changed the way that Gerald would see things in the future. Although it’s romanticised within the film, he hasn’t forgotten the girl he once saw who was the Freedom Fighter. He explains to his viewers that, “there are a lot of secret matters in my life”. 

Secret Matters screens as part of the St Kilda Film Festival from 18th to 27th May.

5 blergs
5 blergs
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