katalin-varga-jan-20thPeter Strickland sets his debut feature, a poetic rural tragedy, in Transylvanian Romania, using the landscape as a gloomy backdrop to a thriller with gothic overtones. Katalin Varga is cast out of her home by her husband and forced to leave the village in a horse-drawn cart with her son and belongings. Slowly Katalin’s story unfolds as she sets about getting her revenge for the harrowing event which caused her expulsion. (Cert 15)
Dir: Peter Strickland 81 mins Romania 2009
to be shown with
THIS QUALITY Artists’ Cinema
Dir: Rosalind Nashashibi (Cert U) 5 mins Egypt 2010

Programme Notes

Thursday, 20th January 2010

Romania/UK 2009 81 minutes Cert. 15

Tonight’s feature film is the feature-length directorial debut from the Reading-born Peter Strickland, Katalin Varga. The film focuses on a mother Katalin, played by Hilda Péter, who had a brutal incident with two men in the forest many years ago. Rejected by her husband, after the village realizes the ordeal she encountered, she takes her son to seek revenge on those two men, travelling throughout the Carpathian Mountains to find them.

Strickland’s career as a film-maker is a somewhat patchy affair. After being able to show his short, Bubblegum, at the 1997 Berlin International film festival, he has been struggling to get the financial backing he needed to make his first feature film. Therefore, using his inheritance money from a deceased uncle, he was able to make Katalin Varga on a humble budget of less than £25,000, with a modest crew of 11 people.

Some of his influences on achieving the sometimes bleak, yet mesmerising, setting for his film came from many sources. In an interview with the Guardian, he said that he would “listened to Pornography by the Cure and Suicide by Suicide on headphones endlessly during the writing process.” Some of his cinematic influences included Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter, and Paradjanov’s Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors. “All the ingredients for the film were in these and the Popol Vuh soundtrack to Herzog’s Nosferatu,” Strickland explained about his influences when he made Katalin Varga.

“Strickland blends a naturalistic portrayal of life in rural Romania with the trappings of a dark folk tale, as Varga’s quest goes in unexpected directions (both for her and us).” (Matt McAllister, Total Sci-Fi Online)

“Strickland’s feel for landscape is wonderful, as is the film’s striking sound design – created from a combination of electronic music and heightened natural sounds.” (Jason Best, What’s on TV)

Katalin Varga is a terrific, unshowily accomplished film, and it would be fascinating to see what Peter Strickland might do in a British setting.” (Jonathan Romney, The Independent)

LA Girl – Andrea Gavriliu
Gergely – Roberto Giacomello
Etelka Borlan – Melinda Kántor
Katalin Varga – Hilda Péter
Denim – Attila Kozma

Director – Peter Strickland
Screenplay – Peter Strickland
Cinematography – Márk Györi
Original Music – Geoffrey Cox, Steven Stapleton
Producers – Tudor Giurgiu, Peter Strickland, Oana Giurgiu

Egypt 2010 5 minutes Cert. U
This Quality comes from the award-winning artist, Rosalind Nashashib. Set in Cairo, this short focuses on a woman who acknowledges other people she meets, although the camera is positioned so that we can only see her face. It also features many parked cars covered in fabric.

“’This Quality’, a beguilingly deadpan study of, first, the placid face of a young woman and then of a wry variety of striped fabric covers on cars in Cairo.” (Brian Dillon, Sight & Sound)



“Brilliant, considering its budget. The tension held up to the end.”

“Beautifully filmed – interesting build-up of tension.”

“Splendid photography and excellent music. Intensely gripping and a fascinating study of guilt, vengeance and gender politics. Who ultimately is punished?”

“Gripping and original but depressing”

“Powerful performance by Hilda Peter. Beautifully filmed, with sustained menace.”

“I loved the dark and atmospheric background music.”

“Had an excellent soundtrack and compelling images.”

“Oddly compelling – a medieval vendetta through rural Transylvania with horse and cart [plus] occasional glimpses of 20th century grot! Bleak but with a wonderful feel for landscape.”

“Like a weird fairytale with polyester and mobile ‘phones. Genuinely scary and affecting.”

“Very good insight into [the] Romanian countryside. Excellent photography, gripping story.”

“Stunning scenery. Some discussion points :-

  • “Peoples’ lives are complicated
  • “What goes around comes around
  • “You reap what you sow”

“Thomas Hardy isn’t dead – he’s writing scripts in Romania!”

“Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Romanian style. I just assume the ones after her weren’t the police. A nice travelogue for Transylvania!”

“I enjoyed it but [it was] very dark and a bit unlikely at times. The lead actress was very good.”

“Almost too much to watch – and on [only] £25,000!”

“Not too cheerful but powerful – a good example of how creative talent can overcome a miniscule budget. I can see why people might want to leave Romania!”

“Nice countryside – shame about the people. Was this promoted by the [Romanian] Tourist Board?”

“Original, unsettling and unlikely to encourage anyone to go to Romania.”

“Solid enough to keep you engaged but the ending was a bit too abrupt for its own good.”

“I’m not quite sure why this film was made!! Obviously Romanian film viewers see life in a different way.”

“Unfortunately, I had the sense all the way through that this was filmed by an amateur. The scenery was great and the photography of that was good but [the film] never came together for me. It just missed in its relationships [and the] photography was overdramatic … sad.”

“Be careful what you wish for! An unexpected ending.”


“Never mind the quality, feel the width – no dirty cars here!”

“An enjoyable five minutes!”

“Quite interesting but I’m not entirely sure what it was about”

“Food for the Modern Art Gallery in Oxford”

“Enigmatic. Why were the cars required to wear burkas?”

“I must get Paul Smith to design a coat for my car.”

“Would have been improved by pyramids!”

“Probably good if you’re into long shots of people doing nothing and stripy car covers but otherwise rather pointless.”

“A little too odd for its own good, making you want to work out why it was made like that.”

“Did not seem to have much substance. Self-indulgent?”

“Could not get into this at all.”

“There you go!”

“Why did I watch this?”

“And … ?”




A:11, B:22, C:5, D:0, E:0 to give 79%