Ildikó Enyedi’s directing career started out with a bang as My 20th Century was granted the Camera d’Or award for best first feature film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989. The Orient Express speeds towards Budapest and a new century, on board are identical twins, the courtesan Dóra in first class and anarcho-feminist Lili in third class. The film travels in time and space, mischievously commenting on women’s roles, groundbreaking inventions, and humankind’s responsibility for the environment. Edison’s lightbulbs are lit up and a telegraph replaces a carrier pigeon.
A gentleman fascinated with scientific miracles, a character played by the delightful Oleg Yankovskiy, becomes acquainted with Dóra and Lili (Dorota Segda) and assumes they are the same person and an ideal of a woman.
Gergely Bikácsy writes in Filmvilág magazine that My 20th Century is incomparable to any film in the history of Hungarian cinema. Merging a naïve fairytale and profound philosophy, this film is incredibly complex and charmingly simple. In an article for Psychoanalytic Inquiry, Catherine Portuges examines the film through psychoanalysis and feminism, the article’s title referring to cinema and psychoanalysis as Central European twins.
The film demonstrates the charm of cinema: it plays with references and honours cinematic tradition with incredible black and white cinematography. Everything is organic, the stars and apes speak. Telegraphs do Morse code about the wonders of the world and our ability to alter them… (Marjatta Manni-Hämäläinen)