Children of Glory (2008)

Director:  Krisztina Goda
Cast:  Kata DobóIván FenyöSándor Csányi
Plot:  At the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, the Hungarian water polo team faces off against the Russians in what will become known as one of the bloodiest matches in the sport's history.

Genre:  Drama / History / War
Awards:  -
Runtime:  123min
Rating:  M18 for war violence, coarse language, and some sexuality.


One of the year's most absorbing pictures, Children of Glory is a milestone in Hungarian cinema.  Director Krisztina Goda knows what it takes to make such a film, which is both daring and a risky venture.  Children of Glory epitomizes what filmmaking is truly about; it is both entertaining and value-adds our cinematic experience unlike 'popcorn flicks' which lack substance and meaning. 

Though it was first screened in Hungary in 2006, Children of Glory does not lose its appeal and importance after two years.  Distinctively a foreign film, it's a likely shoo-in for my annual 'Top Ten movies' of the year.  Last year, we had Julian Schnabel's award-winning French biopic, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a beautiful heartbreaking portrayal of a man in an unimaginable circumstance but blessed with huge reserves of determination and perseverance. 

Children of Glory is also like a biopic but it's in a different context.  It documents a momentous chapter in Hungarian history told through the eyes of a freedom fighter and a national water polo player.  It is an uncommon film because it combines the (often separate) genres of war and sport together. 

The central theme here is Hungarian politics and its ineptness in dealing with the Soviet Army during the late 1950s.  The film's dialogue is piercing with the frequent use of racist vulgarities (especially toward Russians) and strong sexual references. 

The war violence and gore presented is at times very unsettling, especially when innocent women and children are brutally mowed down by enemy gunfire from tanks.

Speaking of tanks, I have not quite seen a movie that has so masterfully captured the devastating capabilities and hostility of Russian armored vehicles before. Children of Glory not only manages to engage viewers with its excellent action set-pieces, but also through its drama. 

There's a love story involved as always, with the two leads played superbly by Ivan Fenyo and Kata Dobo.  The conclusion is bittersweet yet stunning in its execution - while singing the Hungarian National Anthem, a freedom fighter marches to her death while her water polo partner wins the Olympic Gold which temporary silences their oppressor.  Children of Glory is likely to be a critical favorite, but unlikely to be the crowd pleaser.  Still, it is recommended!

GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)

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