An autobiographical film by Hungarian director Marta Meszaros (Nine Months). At the close of World War II a young, orphaned girl—her mother had died in the war; her father had been arrested and vanished—returns home to communist Hungary from Moscow. She’s assigned to the care of a stern aunt—a former resistance fighter, and now a high-ranking member of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Meszaros brings some provocative variations to the state/family metaphor: it is now the evil mother who embodies the repressive force of the totalitarian society, while the fathers—the girl’s real parent and the substitute she finds in the gentle father of a friend (both are played by the same actor)—are its passive, impotent victims. The girl’s coming of age is a discovery of both sexual and political power. But though the ideas are intriguing, I have always been allergic to Meszaros’s painfully exaggerated realism: the drab settings, the understated acting, the bleak cinematography (by Meszaros’s son, Miklos Jancso Jr.) radiate authenticity but lack the pleasurable spark of true artistic re-creation.