Tragedy of Man Tragedy of Man
Feature Film

Hungarian Animation Legend Marcell Jankovics Has Finished An Epic New Feature “The Tragedy of Man”

One of the most unique voices in animation, Marcell Jankovics, the Hungarian director of features like Fehérlófia and shorts like Sisyphus, has completed a new feature. And this is not any film, but a two-hour, forty-minute epic that was in production for nearly 25 years!

The film, Az ember tragédiája (The Tragedy of Man) was released in Hungary last December. It’s adapted from a famous Hungarian play of the same name written by Imre Madách. A film review by Vassilis Kroustallis suggests that it’s relentlessly bleak and somewhat repetitive, yet worth seeing:

Lucifer, the co-creator of the world (according to his statement) tests Adam and puts him to sleep to see his destiny through the ages. The trip is interesting, visually stimulating (but never pretty), and relentlessly repeating. Not a single note of happiness or laughter enters The Tragedy of Man, which proceeds from the Garden of Eden to Egypt and then to classical Greece, Rome, Christianity and beyond…The choice of the stories to tell is varied and remarkable. Along with the usual historical suspects (Danton and the French Revolution, Hitler and Stalin), the Miltiades story from Greece (a general who becomes a traitor), and the Tancred and Crusades segment–along with the battles on the Filioque–are a treat to watch in this context.

Jankovics’ work is always a unique visual experience, and one expects this to be no different. Aeon Flux creator Peter Chung described Jankovics’ style best when he wrote that Jankovics can “make the movement a primary aspect of the design. Every element–character & setting, foreground & background, color & shape, is integrated into a total composition in motion. It approaches the idea of animation as a visual equivalent to music, with analogs to melody, rhythm and harmony working in a non-literal evocation of ideas and feelings.”

Below are a few stills from The Tragedy of Man:

  • Amazing! Truly amazing!

    One more into the list of “can’t wait to see” movies.

  • Tomm

    Woah! This guy is a serious talent and living legend. Cant wait to see it.

  • Aymanut

    Oh man, this looks awesome. “Sisyphus” is such a great short. Three minutes long but so much power.

    One question: has this been released before? On a movie rating site I am a part of (Mubi), it says this film was released in 1993, but also says it is only 90 minutes long. Has it been previously released in a shorter version or is this information incorrect?

    • GhaleonQ

      It looks like he screened various segments separately as he finished them, but the work’s just been released as a whole. Exciting! I love this man’s stuff.

  • This feels so surreal. How can a new film look like it’s already an established moment in animation history?

  • D

    This looks awesome, monumental and epic. I’ve been in love with Marcell Jankovics work since I saw his film Feherlofia blasting on the big screen in a European night club. His style is so fluid, experimental, bold and energetic it fills me with a wealth of inspiration. I really hope that this new film gets a North American release, hell lets release all of his films in North America. Its films like these that make me wish there was a Criterion Collection for animated films.

  • It sure does look 25 years old, and that’s what awesome about it.
    But it also look like some kind of White Album, too big, going in all directions… Oh well I’ll see (I hope!).
    Fehérlófia is the best feature length animated film I’ve seen from Hungary, so my hopes are high. János vitéz, Jankovics’ first feature film, is good too, it’s like Yellow Submarine going folklore. I recently saw English subbed versions of Daliás idök and HabfürdÅ‘, two other great animated feature films from the same period. I’m amazed how much I keep discovering stuff from this country!

  • DonaldC

    This looks phenomenal.
    I love love love the art.

  • Killer. My first thought was this is SITA SINGS THE BLUES, all growed up.

  • I have heightened respect for Marcell Jankovics and Peter Chung.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      He certainly gets mine too.

  • I wish Jankovic’s work was available on DVD….

  • cool stuff, reminds me a little of fantasia only less kitsch.

  • Wow looks magnificent!

  • The idea that the world was created by an evil Demiurge instead of the one true God is the most basic tenant of Gnosticism.

    Gnosticism is the real fuel behind modern Sci-Fi and Fantasy, from Jack Kirby to Philip K. Dick and the Wachowsky siblings.

    Expect to hear more mentions of Gnosticism after the release of Prometheus ;)

  • paolo

    I have seen it in a festival and I have mixed feelings about it. From one end I feel that trying to represent in animation a Faust-like play about the history of mankind is an effort which deserves respect. And, indeed, some episodes, like the one about Kepler, have great visuals. On the other hand I think that this effort is a lost bet: as Mr. Kroustallis points out in his review, it is repetitive in its showing one episode after another of Adam trying to do something right and Lucifer spoiling it (sorry for the spoiler, no pun intended). So, I repeat, it deserves respect and a try.

  • Gergő Demjén

    The Tragedy of Man was one of my required reading what I really enjoyed. It was written in 1860, so a quite old piece. The present of the play is the industrial era, the London scene was Madách’s target to criticize his present. I think the best thing Jankovics did that he was able to bridge that time which passed by since the original play however nothing had lost from the original message. London scene went on until the very the latest days and Jankivics had place to criticize our times as well as Madach did. Madach’s future scene was world of Fourier’s Falanster, Jankovics’s future scene is the realized communism mixed with some utopias. (like Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1985 and a Szathmári Sándor’s Kazohinia) I think the way how Jankovich had managed the adaptation of the play to our time was exceptionally brilliant and smart. I confess that I was quite bored in the first part of movie but it is worth to be patient. It will never forget this movie.

    The Tragedy of Man have been played in theaters for 150 years notwithstanding that it is not working on stage. I’ve heard about only some satisfying attempts of it. But this animation is seemed to be a good way to enjoy it.

    • Gergő Demjén

      Sorry for my grammar, I don’t use to comment often in English.