Three days in April 1943 in the Soviet Union. The sky and the ground are painted the same swampy colour as the uniforms of the Hungarian soldiers’, allies of the German army. Once a farmer, now sub-Lieutenant, István Šemetka is ordered to go from village to village to root out Soviet partisans and their supporters. Suddenly, their commander is killed in a failed mission and Šemetka, being a compliant man, unexpectedly takes on his role. He struggles with how to act, contemplating whether the Führer would approve of his decisions if he were to find out.
Natural Light premiered in competition at the Berlin Film Festival and won the Silver Bear for Best Director. The film, which was partially filmed in Latvia, was co-produced by Mistrus Media. Inspired by the novel of the same name (2014) by Hungarian writer Pál Závada, director Dénes Nagy’s first narrative feature succeeds in creating an existential and atmospheric war swamp. The viewer gets drawn in and stuck too – stripped of history and words, the dampness exuding from the film can be felt to the bone. Natural Light is a confident addition to the pantheon of great anti-war films by Belarusian director Elem Klimov and fellow Hungarian, László Nemes. As the embodiment of the concept of the banality of evil, coined by philosopher Hannah Arendt, protagonist István struggles with his inability to disobey, and simultaneously with his inability to reject his humanity.