Euphoria of Being
“I’ve waited 90 years for this.” This comment, spoken by a woman who has suffered more personal loss than have most people, refers to the late-in-life opportunity presented to her by Hungarian filmmaker Réka Szabó, director of the aptly titled The Euphoria of Being. Specifically, the remarkably spry nonagenarian, Éva Fahidi, is speaking about the chance she has been given to turn her traumatic experiences as a Holocaust survivor into a modern dance piece, one that would be choreographed by Emese Cuhorka and performed on stage in front of a live audience following weeks of grueling rehearsals. Szabó, a dancer herself, documents the entire process, registering her elder countrywoman’s eagerness to tell her story in a nontraditional way as well as the physical challenges of performing a duet alongside Éva’s much younger, professionally trained dance partner. As the author of the recently published memoir The Soul of Things, Fahidi has much to say about the unending grief that resulted from familial separation and the murder of her blood relatives (in the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp when she was a teenager). But her most moving statements are made nonverbally, through the graceful movements of a body that bears the literal and figurative marks of the past. At film festivals around the world, this achingly beautiful documentary about human resilience and the healing power of art has been lauded as a celebration of three strong women — the film’s director, chorographer, and subject — who together comprise a surrogate family of sorts and attest to the intergenerational bonding that has helped to turn feminist thought into action. A fourth woman — cinematographer Claudia Kovács — deserves recognition as well for her evocative, expressionistic visuals, which (in the closing minutes of The Euphoria of Being) become an extension of the music; suggesting a similarly perfect pairing between image and sound. This recent winner of the Human Rights Award at the Sarajevo Film Festival will leave you breathless not only in anticipation of Éva’s first performance but also in admiration for what she has achieved over the span of nearly a full century, contributing much to our understanding of the twentieth century’s most unfathomable atrocity.
By David Scott Diffrient
(Hungarian with English subtitles)