The first film directed by a woman to win the Berlinale’s top prize, Adoption saw Márta Mészáros fêted as a filmmaker and a master chronicler of the female experience.
When factory worker Kata realises she wants a child, she won’t let her age nor her status as a widowed, single woman get in the way. Her married lover is uninterested in helping, even though she’s resolved to parent alone. Kata’s life changes unexpectedly, however, when she meets teenage ward of the state Anna, who is desperate to marry her boyfriend in a bid for personal liberation. As the two women form a bond that is both maternal and sororal, they will support each other on their separate paths to self-determination – and to the family each of them desires.
Pioneering Hungarian auteur Mészáros’s fifth fiction feature historically took home the Golden Bear, and subsequently screened at festivals around the world (including MIFF in 1976). Herself an orphan, Mészáros studied filmmaking at Russia’s State Institute of Cinematography and started her career shooting documentaries – a background evident in several extraordinary scenes here that display a distinct vérité touch. Another hallmark of Mészáros’s work is her intimate close-up and crisp black-and-white camerawork, which looks stunning in this new 4K digital restoration by the Hungarian National Film Fund. As an early depiction of women’s agency and then-unconventional motherhood, Adoption signals a bold but shamefully unsung cinematic voice.
“Adoption, which features a single woman who constantly defies expectations, is powerful not just as a refreshing counterpoint to Europe’s rising conservatism but, even more importantly, in the context of bold feminist cinema.” – Sight & Sound