Due to the success of The Duke of Burgundy (2014), a relationship drama about a sadomasochistic relationship between two women, I thought it was the right time to have a look at his debut film Katalin Varga (2008). This low budget rural revenge drama was filmed over a 17-day period in in the Hungarian speaking part of the Romanian region of Transylvania. A project he completed for £28000 with money that he received in bequest from his uncle.
With only a smattering of Hungarian the Reading born Strickland directed this foreign language film in English, stating in an interview "Even though I got to know the Hungarian translation quite well, I felt very helpless if the actors wanted to improvise certain parts. For me, this film represents a movie Transylvania - but not in the Dracula sense. Everything is heightened - the goat bells, crickets, and wind ... It's a conglomeration of what I felt as an outsider"
Although this is to a certain extent a classis revenge story: a young women is raped by two men and she sets out with her young son to extract retribution on both the culprits, it does not encompass the shook tactics normally found in many other films of this genre but almost gives a biblical edge to the drama or as one critic put it “a tonally rich cinematic poem”
The film, to its credit, includes actors that will not be familiar with, which for many viewers will make the story more believable and realistic. Hilda Peter plays Katalin Varga, her son Orban is Norbert Tanko and Tibor Palffy and Roberto Giacomello play the men she hold’s responsible for her rape. Strickland’s direction is superb, Mark Gyori cinematography uses light and colour exceptionally well and along with an appropriate soundtrack makes this a debut film of great potential and proved to be a pointer to the writer/directors future work.