This is a Hungarian film, with a very very long name: Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (2021). It is a film that many women can relate to. The man who isn’t who he says he is. The man who cons us into his disguise. The man who is avoidant and we take on the challenge of falling in love with him and gaining his trust and love. Then he turns into another person. He lies. We try to win him back by being persistent and devout. In the movie, this goes in an interesting direction. A very artistic path. Yes, she does get him back in the end. Only, in real life, this rarely happens.
The movie begins with Vizy (last names used), who has left her job as a neurosurgeon and all her friends behind in New Jersey, to chase Drexler, in Budapest. The two of them had met at a Neurological conference and had a brief interlude. At the end, they agreed to meet in Budapest at Liberty bridge on the Pest side at 5pm. Vizy is there, Drexler is not. How many times have we seen this in a movie? I remember Noelle Page going to the restaurant by the Eiffel Tower to meet Larry, in “The Other Side of Midnight.” She ends up staying at the restaurant until they have to kick her out and then she goes home to do a bathroom riddance scene to cleanse her body of him completely.
There is the famous movie “An Affair to Remember” with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. At least in this film, she did try to come to the Empire State Building, but was hit by a car and paralyzed. As with most American movies, there is a happy ending with tears rolling down your cheeks. He wasn’t a con, nor was she. She was paralyzed and had too much pride. We can relate.
With Vizy, she blames herself, as many women do; when they are conned by a man. As an audience we are blown over by her dedication to winning him back. You think to yourself, as do the characters around her “Why are you being such an idiot?” No one knows the real story in the movie except her neuropsychologist. She thinks she has made the whole thing up and that they never actually met. She recalls the feelings but as her doctor tells her, “As a doctor, you know that feelings don’t really matter.” As you watch the film, you are wondering too if she made it all up. The storyline is vague about a possible brain condition that she might be suffering from – or did I make this up? Did they not elude to this?
Vizy gets a job where Drexler works or he teaches across the street but is there at the hospital to scrub in once in awhile. She gets a “run down” apartment overlooking a section of Liberty Bridge in Budapest. This apartment reminds me of the French film, “Last Tango in Paris,” and a passionate sex scene will also take place here – minus the oleo. She is getting phone calls from a best friend in New Jersey, that she continues to ignore – denial of a life that once existed. She is stalking Drexler all over Budapest to see what type of lifestyle he lives. She has given up on herself because she refuses to allow this liaison to have been nothing more than a dream. If a guy were to have done this in real life, people would think he was crazy and we would call him a “Stalker.” A woman does it in a film and it is romantic.
I loved the scenes that incorporate the colors of the Hungarian flag in a symbolic but indirect way. Nationalistic pride that I can appreciate, having grown up with a refugee from 1956. When she speaks with her doctor, in one scene, the camera focuses on her lips – a deep red, contrasted with her pale white face and a green wall in the background. Another scene where she is on the mattress on the floor (her home is sparsely furnished) and this mattress is from the previous tenant/owner. While she lays here, as you can see in the film clip above, she is wrapped in a red and white blanket. There was no green this time but I still felt it was chosen on purpose. We can also see this blanket as being red for passion and white for purity. She is a decent woman trying to cleanse herself of the tragedy that has beholden her.
I also love the walking/dancing scene at one point in the movie – between the two characters. The camera loves to tease you with – is this really happening? Is he really there? At one point he disappears and we only see her smile. Eluding to the fact that he has now re-appeared. The symbolism in this scene is the dance we take in life when it comes to romance. We are in unison or are we? We take steps forward and then backward. And then suddenly love disappears. The con. The upside of this is that if the couple is mature enough, they will take responsibility for their actions and this relationship will grow from the experience. Drexler got cold feet. He freaked out when she actually showed up in Budapest. But this love is determined and mature, I mean we are talking about two highly educated neurosurgeons not two 20 year-olds who haven’t quite differentiated from their mother’s apron strings. This is a movie. We are curious. We are dumbfounded. We are confused.
Who wouldn’t want to figure this mystery out? She has just flown all the way across the world to Hungary, her place of origin but where she has not lived in 20 years. Immediately after getting off the plane, Drexler is not there. She finds him at his place of business and he says he has never met her before. That she is confusing him with someone else. She looks at photographs from the conference, that are online. We do this to remind ourselves. Did this affair really happen? Was he really in my life? Did she make the whole thing up? The photographs give us some indication that he was there. They are practical snapshots of a time that we remember, fondly, with lovely memories of what we thought was perfection.
Like with An Affair to Remember, though with a different angle to it, Drexler goes to Vizy’s apartment and confesses his lies. Is she there? We don’t know because prior to him going there, we see her packing up the house. He goes to Liberty bridge finally, on the Pest side and he smiles. Next thing we see is him helping her to get a stereo lifted up to her apartment. Making sure the workmen put a piece of cardboard on the ground so that it won’t be ruined. He is taking responsibility for her or being concerned for her. They are taking the first steps in having a relationship in Hungary. It looks like she is staying.