Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time movie review (2021)

Instead of coming to terms with the ill-advised impulse behind traveling half the world for a spontaneous rendezvous with a stranger, Márta searches for János, only to learn he doesn’t recognize her. In fact he has no memory of ever meeting her. As if she were haunted by an apparition, Márta starts to see him everywhere and begins to doubt her sanity. The movie’s puzzling plot then bends in ways that could make Christopher Nolan salivate, but which are deployed with a narrative elegance that keeps it grounded.

As it leads us down confounding roads, “Preparations” fashions Stork’s stoic expression, a perpetual poker face, as a barrier protecting her inner world. But rather than generating disinterest, her unemotional state allows the movie to disclose its twists only in small doses as she tries to rationalize them. Obsessed with objectively finding out whether János’ dismissal means a hurtful betrayal on his part or the symptom of a pathology afflicting her, Márta arranges to live and work as close to him as possible.

Márta soon settles into a new job at a local hospital, and it’s obvious she’s not welcomed. However, this puts her in direct contact with János and his colleagues, and she ramps up her efforts to unmask him and unveil what she believes is an attempt at gaslighting her. The position also brings another, younger suitor Alex (Benett Vilmányi), whose attraction seems primarily attached to her profession. He is a med student who aggressively courts her.

As Mara shares with her therapist the possibility she might have built this romantic castle in the sky, Horvát shoots Márta from different angles that perhaps point to a shift in personality, as if implying a rupture in Márta’s psyche. The spaces Márta interacts with further corroborate the director’s wish to bewilder viewers, with endlessly curving spiral staircases and hallways illustrating cinematographer Róbert Maly’s visual representation of the mind’s complex web of thoughts.

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