Two Hungarian films about homosexuality: Falsehood and the truth

While researching an entirely different topic, I encountered by chance a description of a Hungarian-made film called “Coming Out.” On closer observation, it turns out that the film is about “how to come out of being gay”–that is, how to “cure oneself” of being gay. Shortly after the film appeared in November, a reviewer claimed that it “is the most harmful Hungarian film ever made.” He came to that conclusion on the basis of the comments that appeared under a review of the film in Index, which were full of venom, hatred, and anti-Semitic remarks.

I, on the other hand, see it somewhat differently. Yes, it is most likely a harmful film, but not because commenters make ugly remarks about gays, liberals, and Jews. It is harmful because it is a falsification of medical facts. Instead of enlightening the terribly ignorant Hungarian public on the phenomenon of homosexuality, it leads them farther down the road of ignorance.

Some twenty years ago, in the infancy of the Internet, I signed up for two discussion groups dealing with Hungary. One was in English, the other in Hungarian. By now I don’t remember on which one we had a Hungarian psychiatrist who one day came out with the brilliant observation that “homosexuality is like smoking. One can get hooked but one can also quit.” It seems that even twenty years later many Hungarians haven’t changed their attitudes.

The story of the movie is as follows. Erik, an openly gay radio personality, is planning to marry his partner, Balázs. Then comes a motorcycle accident, as a result of which he slowly discovers that he is “in truth” attracted to the opposite sex. Who is the object of his newly found heterosexual desires? His own physician, Linda.

The producer of this film is Gábor Kálomista, a man known for his right-wing sympathies. It received 280 million forints from the fund established by the Orbán government under the supervision of Andy Vajnai, formerly a producer of such serial Hollywood blockbusters as Rambo and Terminator. Vajnai is a practical guy for whom box office numbers are the measure of success. When he arrived as Viktor Orbán’s man in charge of film production, he decided to change the direction of Hungarian filmmakers’ activities. Hungary was known for winning all sorts of international prizes but, Orbán and Vajnai pointed out, nobody went to see these films. They didn’t make any money.

The result of the total reorganization of the Hungarian film industry was that for three solid years no Hungarian film was produced. But then “Coming Out” appeared. Since the money for the production came from the Christian, family oriented Orbán government, one couldn’t expect to see a real “coming out.” Moreover, since the newly organized film industry wanted high ticket sales, the plot had to appeal to the majority, conservative audience. Apparently it worked. By the end of January 110,000 people went to see the movie.

It seems that this pseudo-science is what the Hungarian public wants to believe. They can go home after the movie and discuss with friends and family the “fact” that homosexuality is an illness which can be cured, if necessary by a knock on the head. They can go on and talk in the style of Zsolt Semjén about “bearded liberals” who lead innocent children into sin by luring them into sexual deviance.

This film is a reflection of the generally phony world of Orbán’s Hungary. Falsifying history, falsifying science: all is well as long as the government’s propaganda machine, assisted by the churches, satisfies the needs of the population. Moreover, this is film is just a drop in the bucket. For instance, Péter Róska, a theologian, explains on Magyar Rádió that “homosexual tendencies” are acquired traits because “they haven’t found the homosexual gene.” The whole western world, he continues, is in danger because of the “gender ideology” that is directed by gays and feminists. This kind of pap is being fed to the Hungarian public.

SturmlandIn sharp contrast, a Hungarian-German film, naturally not supported by Andy Vajna’s fund, won top honors in the “first film” category at the Berlin Film Festival. The film, entitled Sturmland/Viharsarok (Land of Storms), is about three gay men wrestling with their sexuality in an unaccommodating environment.  A review I read of the film describes the background as something that “belongs to a forgotten Europe.” A Hungarian football player returns from Germany and gets romantically involved with a local man. Both men endure separate experiences of violence as word gets out about them. In the end the football player is murdered. Berliner Zeitung wrote a very favorable review of the film in which the reviewer emphasized that the movie is about “the dreadful logic of repressed homosexuality and the deadly hatred of homosexuals.”

Two films, two worlds. One is reality, the other reflects the awful emptiness of a mendacious world created by Viktor Orbán and his Christian Democratic allies who have a free rein in matters of education, culture, and film production.

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78 comments

  1. Other news:

    Will the nationalist (anti-Russian and pro-European) opposition introduce dictatorship in the Ukraine if they take the power through violence?

    http://lenta.ru/news/2014/02/18/rada/

    Orban must have schizophrenic fits about this.

    He is proclaimed pro-Russian, anti-European nationalist.

  2. The 102-year-old widow of the poet Miklós Radnóti passed away three days ago.
    He was murdered, as a Jew by Hungarian guards in 1944

    Mr. Balog’s department (EMMI, it includes education and culture) does not want to honor her.
    (by regarding her as an “official dead” – this is one of those strange Hungarian customs)

    She is officially honored only by the Socialist-led local government of the 13th district.

    for non-Hungarian readers of this blog:
    this is rude anti-Semitism on the part of the Orban cabinet.

    “Tegnap megjelent lapszámunkban tévesen írtuk, hogy az Emberi Erőforrások Minisztériuma saját halottjának tekinti Gyarmati Fannit, Radnóti Miklós özvegyét, a tárca csupán azt közölte, hogy osztozik a gyászban. Radnóti Miklós özvegyét Budapest Főváros és a XIII. kerület díszpolgárát saját halottjaként a XIII. kerületi önkormányzat búcsúztatja.”

    http://www.magyarhirlap.hu/helyesbites

  3. Let us enjoy that people like us are interested in saving Hungary.

    Let us hope that the other angry Hungarians will soon convert to our ranks.

    I am amazed by the virtue of the good Hungarians, and saddened by the destructive nature of the other Hungary.

    We need local prophets to change all of us into good Hungarians.

    Gyurcsany is almost suitable for this task, like Jimmy Carter has also made an effort to help Americans to turn into non-violent individuals.

  4. Earlier we talked about how Mazsihisz and its allies entered the campaign with full force. Now there are new developments that make it crystal clear that the Mazsihisz issue is a campaign issue.

    http://mandiner.hu/cikk/20140218_bajnai_gordon_orban_adjon_valaszt_a_mazsihisznek

    Gordon Bajnai, the former prime minister is directly using the issue as a campaigning tool. By Gordon Bajnai’s personal involvement and taking advantage of the situation, he perfectly confirms the words of

    Rabbi Baruch Oberlander :
    “Unfortunately, many Jews and Jewish leaders participate in the elections, and the Socialists take advantage.”

  5. @Mr. Paul

    Why is it “unfortunate” for Jews to participate in the elections?

    They were deprived of this right only between 1939 and 1944 – the Nazi period.

  6. @tappanch:

    What about earlier elections under Horthy? I’ve read that only a minority of Hungarians were allowed to vote in the period 1920 – 1940, was there also a discrimination against Jews and other groups then? Or was it just discrimination against women?

  7. tappanch :
    @Mr. Paul
    Why is it “unfortunate” for Jews to participate in the elections?

    You should ask Rabbi Baruch Oberlander why he picked that exact phrasing, “unfortunate”. But I would guess it means that if you enter the election campaign with certain issues, they become campaign issues.

  8. Mr. Paul :
    Maybe a prize should be given to Harnad too. He is certainly a great hero.

    DISS-TINCTION

    Dear “Mr Paul”: One has no idea who you are, behind your comfy cloak of pseudonymy, yet via your tergiversations it is clearly discernible that to be dissed by the likes of you is a distinct pip.

  9. @ Mr. Paul

    “But I would guess it means that if you enter the election campaign with certain issues, they become campaign issues.”

    Well, that sounds pretty circular…I’m not sure that those words carry any meaning, though.
    But please, Mr. P., please don’t explain…

  10. Mr. Paul :
    Earlier we talked about how Mazsihisz and its allies entered the campaign with full force. Now there are new developments that make it crystal clear that the Mazsihisz issue is a campaign issue.
    http://mandiner.hu/cikk/20140218_bajnai_gordon_orban_adjon_valaszt_a_mazsihisznek
    Gordon Bajnai, the former prime minister is directly using the issue as a campaigning tool. By Gordon Bajnai’s personal involvement and taking advantage of the situation, he perfectly confirms the words of
    Rabbi Baruch Oberlander :
    “Unfortunately, many Jews and Jewish leaders participate in the elections, and the Socialists take advantage.”

    Why shouldn’t this be a campaign issue? WHy shouldn’t Bajnai use this? Let Orban use it. Good for him. I welcome that it is in fact an election issue! Also, the soup kitchens should be an election issue. I would like to see someone ask Orban about the worth of Hungarian education. That should be an election issue. Are you telling me that all the Fidesz propaganda, the youngsters at the year end conference is not an election stunt from the Fidesz? People in glass houses…

  11. Mr. Paul :

    tappanch :
    @Mr. Paul
    Why is it “unfortunate” for Jews to participate in the elections?

    You should ask Rabbi Baruch Oberlander why he picked that exact phrasing, “unfortunate”. But I would guess it means that if you enter the election campaign with certain issues, they become campaign issues.

    It should be a campaign issue. As everything the Orban government does to the people of the country. The rabbi is wrong.

  12. @wolfi
    you asked a similar question a year ago

    here is my answer

    February 11, 2013

    % of people eligible to vote in Hungary (draft)

    1840: 1.7% (adult male noblemen only)
    1848: 7.2%
    1874: < 6% start of open elections
    1905: 6.2%
    1910: 6.4% (1.2 million eligible voters in "large" Hungary)
    1919 April : 50% (4.5 million) (local elections)

    1920 January: 36% (3.1 million) (secret)
    1922 May: 27% (6% were allowed to vote in secret (in big towns) for 46 seats,
    21% only openly for 199 seats)
    (2.4 million eligible to vote)
    1926 December: 24% (2.2 million) (open election in the countryside)

    1935 March: ?? (open election in the countryside)
    1939 May: ?? (secret, most Jews excluded)

    1945 November: 60% (5.16 million) for 409 seats
    1947 August: 5.0-5.3 million for 411 seats

    1949 May: 6.05 for 402 seats
    1953 May: 6.50 for 298 seats
    1958 November: 6.60 for 338 seats
    1963 February: 7.11 for 340 seats
    1967 March: 7.22 for 349 seats
    1971 April: 7.43 for 352 seats
    1975 June: 7.76 for 352 seats
    1980 June: 7.81 for 352 seats
    1985 June: 7.73 for 387 seats

    1990 March: 7.81 for 386 seats
    1994 May: for 386 seats
    1998 May: for 386 seats
    2002 April: for 386 seats
    2006 April: 8.05 for 386 seats
    2010 April: 8.03 for 386 seats

    The number of people actually voting

    1920: 1.8 million
    1922: 1.6 million
    1926: 1.1 million
    1931: 1.5 million
    1935: 2.0 million
    1939: 3.7 million

    1945: 4.775
    1947: 5.026 million

    1949: 5.731
    1953: 6.371
    1958: 6.494
    1963: 6.916
    1967: 7.131
    1971: 7.335
    1975: 7.574
    1980: 7.577
    1985: 7.266

    actual voters (1st round) in millions ; actual voters/eligible voters 1st round%; 2nd round %

    1990. 5.083 total, 4.911 valid; 65.11%; 45.54%
    1994. 5.402; 68.92%; 55.12%
    1998. 4.536; 56.26%; 57.01%
    2002. 5.686; 70.53%; 73.51%
    2006. 5.408; 67.83%; 64.39%
    2010. 5.132 or 5.128; 63.9% or 64.20; 46.64%

    People living in the current territory of Hungary

    1870: 5.0
    1880: 5.3
    1890: 6.0
    1900: 6.9
    1910: 7.6 million

    1920: 8.0
    1930: 8.7
    1941: 9.3

    1949: 9.2
    1960: 10.0
    1970: 10.3
    1980: 10.7
    1990: 10.4
    2001. 10.2

  13. @wolfi

    With respect to the elections between 1867 and 1936, I have not seen research about the Jewish % of the eligible voters.

    In general, there were 4 types of hurdles to pass to be able to vote:
    1. age
    2. sex
    3. wealth
    4. education

    It is safe to say that in criterion 3., and especially in criterion 4., Jewish people were overrepresented in the given period.

    But I have no idea whether 10% or 20% of the eligible voters were Jewish in Hungary in this periods of 1867-1910 or 1926-1935.

  14. Thanks, tappanch, these election rules were so complicated (at least for me), that I tend to forget – just as I forgot the rules for the “three-class-election-system” the German Reich had in the 19th century though I had to learn them at the Gymnasium …

    Totally OT (or not?): I just read that some US Republican said that it might be a good idea to give wealthier people more votes/a larger vote.

    Ain’t it strange that those right wingers (and that includes Orbán and his followers) always want to turn back the wheel of time? Or maybe it’s not really strange …

  15. @Some1:

    Thanks for that list of great Hungarian films – many I’ve seen, but there are some which even my wife didn’t know, so we’ll try to get them!

  16. Some1 :

    Mr. Paul :
    Earlier we talked about how Mazsihisz and its allies entered the campaign with full force. Now there are new developments that make it crystal clear that the Mazsihisz issue is a campaign issue.
    http://mandiner.hu/cikk/20140218_bajnai_gordon_orban_adjon_valaszt_a_mazsihisznek
    Gordon Bajnai, the former prime minister is directly using the issue as a campaigning tool. By Gordon Bajnai’s personal involvement and taking advantage of the situation, he perfectly confirms the words of
    Rabbi Baruch Oberlander :
    “Unfortunately, many Jews and Jewish leaders participate in the elections, and the Socialists take advantage.”

    Why shouldn’t this be a campaign issue? WHy shouldn’t Bajnai use this? Let Orban use it. Good for him. I welcome that it is in fact an election issue!

    I don’t have a problem with an honest opinion like yours. “it should be a campaign issue”. But Mazsihisz so far denied that they are participating in the campaign. I hope that will change it will clear the air around many of the issues at hand.

    It is also a central issue what the ultimate goal of Mazsihisz really is. It is not clear to me at this point.

  17. I recommend Harnad for an award and call him a hero. Just like he did with Tovares. And in response Harnad says I am dissing him. You just can’t win with some people.

  18. @Mr. Paul: Just because Bajnai called out on Orban about the monument and about falsification on history, it doesn’t mean that Mazsihisz itself is participating in the campaign. What is fair to say that the opposition may use the controversy against Fidesz, just as they will use any other controversial issues (like Paks). And that’s what oppositions usually do… they call out and use issues that are controversial and don’t look good on the governing party.

  19. Eva S. Balogh :
    I hope that this is a joke but what an odd one on the op/ed page

    Éva you can’t be serious. You are scaring me here. If you can’t tell apart an obvious joke article from a real one you really really really should reconsider reporting on Hungary with such frequency. Maybe a post every three days so you have more time.

    I mean this really scares me that you would even consider this real. You yourself said it was absolute paranoia when Petofi first started with the conspiracy theories. You yourself said that over 800 thousand people watched the speech on ATV.

    The point of the Népszabadság article is they making fun of people for believing it and throwing out all REASON and CRITICAL THINKING. Just out the window.

    I mean it is incredible to me that you don’t stop for a second and ask questions in a situation like this. Like why would ATV say it was their fault if it wasn’t? I mean how can you not ask that question to yourself and then look at the article again?

    Eva S. Balogh :
    What I read just now in Népszabadság is truly incredible. Apparently just lately Orbán’s office acquired some kind of gismo that can interrupt broadcasting. Apparently they were responsible for the interruption of Gyurcsány’s speech both at ATV and at Klubrádió.
    http://nol.hu/velemeny/megtalaltuk_a_miniszterelnoksegen_a_klubradio-kapcsolot?ref=sso#

    I mean if you don’t realize at first glance that the article is a joke and the picture used to illustrate it is an extremely bad photo.shop. They didn’t even make an effort on the picture, didn’t spend more than 5 minutes on it.

  20. @Mr Paul: You sure like to jump on mistakes, don’t you. We all make mistakes. Nepszabi is really not in the business of publishing jokes… but who knows, maybe they changed their profile. How fitting.

  21. An :
    @Mr Paul: You sure like to jump on mistakes, don’t you. We all make mistakes. Nepszabi is really not in the business of publishing jokes… but who knows, maybe they changed their profile. How fitting.

    The fact is that the abominations of Fidesz have long become so outrageous, escalating with such impudence and impunity, that there is no longer any rational baseline whatsoever from which to reckon whether the latest one was real or surreal.

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