Miklos Jancso, 92; director of stylized films of war

NEW YORK — Hungarian filmmaker Miklos Jancso, who used episodes from his nation’s history to create critically praised parables of war and oppression, died Friday at 92.

The Association of Hungarian Film Artists announced his death, but gave no other details.

Mr. Jancso directed films for more than 50 years, earning his international reputation early with a handful of films distinct for both style and substance.


He became known for his long takes and complex camera movements resulting in beautiful but cool and distant visual effects, which often made scenes of violent or degrading oppression especially chilling.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“The Round-Up” (1965), set in a remote Hungarian plain in the 1860s, depicts the cold tyranny of an Austrian regime determined to snuff out the vestiges of a failed peasant revolt. With spare dialogue and a nonlinear narrative, it presents a Kafkaesque picture of authoritarianism on a small scale. Many saw it as a commentary on the 1956 Hungarian revolt against the Soviet Union.

“This film isn’t just about 1956,” Mr. Jancso said in a 2003 interview for Kinoeye, an online magazine about European film. “The film is about the fact that there are people who want to be free and people who are oppressing them.

The oppressors always use the same methods. In the places where there is no freedom — Turkey, Iran, China — it’s a very simple equation.”

His film “The Red and the White” (1967) depicts Hungarians fighting on the side of Russian Bolsheviks against the Czarists during the Russian Revolution in 1919.


And in “Red Psalm,” for which Mr. Jancso won the best director award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, a 19th-century peasant revolt is presented with lush beauty, almost as a sensual ballet. The film was composed of only 26 shots, a fraction of the number used in an ordinary feature-length film.

“To make up the difference, the camera moves and people move back and forth and in large or small circles,” Roger Greenspun of The Times wrote, “and I suppose it is right to say — as everybody says — that a Jancso film is not so much directed as choreographed.”

Mr. Jancso was born to a Hungarian father and a Romanian mother in Vac, north of Budapest, on Sept. 27, 1921. He studied law before entering film school in Budapest.