This film undoubtedly contains some very beautiful sequences, although my feeling is that Huszarik excels at composing exteriors and in capturing the natural world but is rather less assured when shooting interiors. The opening sequence is very promising, comprising of a succession of fast cut close-ups, some distinguishable some not, while 'poor' old Szindbad is sent from pillar-to-post around the countryside in a horse drawn cart.
Then, immediately after the titles comes a sequence, which is far too long to my mind, and alienates me to such a degree that I have to work hard not to let it affect my appreciation of the rest of the film. Had the director cut straight to Szindbad's beautiful encounter with the nymph of the wood I think I would have flown with him. Unfortunately, the prolonged and silly dance sequence brought me crashing to the ground and I never really got up again.
The presence of the obscure fast cuts presage later events, in much the same way as with a Roeg or Resnais narrative. Although such edits are rather abrupt they are very much a formal narrative devise and rather less to do with experimentation per se. In the otherwise languid atmosphere that is as heady as the scent of lilies, such cuts tend to wake one up. The fragmented, elliptical narrative structure is diverting and enjoyable but hardly innovative even in 1971.
There is certainly an intoxicating quality to this film. I have now watched it a number of times and on more than one occasion I have felt my eyelids become very heavy as if the screen was exuding a sedative. I confess that I slumbered for several moments. I have to say that I am rather less enthusiastic about this film than the other reviewers and commentators. In fact Michael Brooke's research packed essay is more interesting to me than the film itself. The whole Second Run package is of course excellent but like Herz's Morgiana, also bought on trust, neither film is likely to leave my shelf very often.
I've had this since it was released and have been struggling with it ever since, trying to put my finger on what it is that doesn't appeal. Perhaps I can express it like this; in a line-up between The Virgin Spring and Elvira Madigan, it is the former that I'd rather watch.
Szindbad's solipsistic reflections are rather less deserving of our attention than the ornate 19th century settings and beautifully realised landscapes. He has enjoyed a life full of sex and seduction but very little, if any, love. As he drifts from one remembered liaison to another, like a shard of ice slowly diminishing from the overwhelming warmth of his surroundings, we witness the journey of a dead man.