Under Review: ‘Chameleon’ (aka ‘Kaméleon’)


“We all had the same dream. Not women. Not fame.

But cash … because that meant that you were someone.”

This is another Hideous Man Show – but this bad dude meets the seemingly angelic, beautiful, seductive, duplicitous Hideous Woman.

“Chameleon,” the 2009 film submitted from Hungary for Oscar consideration, is worth seeing. Sure, there are contrivances and quite possibly the psychologist, played by László Áron, is a little too seedy. But this film is loaded with exceptional casting, acting, and psychological illumination.

The Greek term for chameleon means ground lion. A chameleon adapts to its environment to avoid detection by its predators, slinking close to its base, changing colors to falsely blend in.

Enter Gabor Farkas (Ervin Nagy), a seductive liar. Nagy has said about his role that his character didn’t say one honest thing in the whole film In the movie, Farkas rationalized, “Women believe what they want to. I don’t trick them.”

Adapting, sneaking, creeping around the garbage of people’s lives to strike them at their most vulnerable, flicking that hypnotic tongue, luring in the prey, Farkas is the ultimate trickster, the consummate disgusting liar.

Womanizers like Farkas struggle with low self-esteem and many, like our orphan protagonist, have had unstable or nonexistent relationships with father figures, especially in early childhood. This makes them feel unsure about their own self-worth, their basic identity and their own sense of power.

Abandoned by his parents, Farkas grew up in an orphanage. He plays a version of the powerless male who maneuvers through “pretending” to blend in, in order to be accepted by a society which essentially rejected him in his formative years. With his focus on adaptation rather than introspection, he is lost, without a sense of his own distinct self. When asked, “Who are you?” Farkas side-steps with unintentional honesty, “That’s a good question.”

Farkas (Nagy) has created so many identities, succeeding so well at so many roles, that he perhaps would think he deserves notice amongst the paintings of great actors at the New York City Players Club. However, unlike the best of actors, his psychopathic nature is incapable of guilt or empathizing. He is incapable of tears and, conversely, of feeling true joy. He is incapable of a true union with a woman or the society he is so busy trying to prove that he is better than.

In an interview Ervin Nagy explains, “I don’t think I have ever had a more challenging or complex role before. I was playing a different personality in almost every single moment. The main character is an underprivileged country lad with a hard life behind him who moves up to the capital and the only money-making option that he sees a future in is the scheme of deception. So ultimately, he becomes a con artist. We would like to see a realistic picture of his psyche they said to me.”

And Nagy does the job. His most brilliant scene is the first time he unwittingly falls prey to his own quarry – his affected seduction by an orthopedist (played with extraordinary depth by the singer/actor, Janos Kulka) has calculated a closing insult beyond our chameleon’s limited expectations. And the karma begins.

The central plot involves Farkas (Nagy) becoming obsessed with seducing one woman, a Madonna-like ballerina named Hanna Hartay, played by the lovely Gabi Hamori. She becomes the one factor in Farkas’ life with the power to transform or destroy him.

The denouement of this film ironically involves a succession of remarkable karmic twists and convolutions. “Chameleon” – labels the protagonist as well as a surprising group of others. Entertaining, insightful and surprising.

“Chameleon” will play at the International Film Festival in Cleveland March 18 to 28, 2010.

International title: Chameleon

Original title: Kaméleon

Country: Hungary

Genre: fiction

Directed by: Krisztina Goda

Screenplay: Krisztina Goda, and Reka Divinyi

Cast: Gabriella Hamori, Ervin Nagy, Zsolt Kovàcs, Sandor Csanyi, Zsolt Trill, Janos Kulka, Zsolt Laszlo and László Áron

Cinematography by: Tamás Babos, Buda Gulyás

Film editing: Zoltán Kovács

Art director: Balázs Hujber, János Szabolcs, and Zsófia Végvári

Costumes designer: Andrea Flesch

Producer: Gabor Kalomista, Mónika Mécs, and Ernö Mesterházy

Production: Megafilm

Distributor: Hungaricom

Music: Gabor Madarasz

Rating: one

Time: 107 minutes

Topics: Crime, Romance, Thriller, Woman Director
Program: Awards Buzz: Best Foreign Language Film
Language: Hungarian English Sub-Titles


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2 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Q #

    Very interesting review, Bev. I’ll have to check this out.

  2. Bev #

    To Q#:
    It is a haunting film. 3 weeks after seeing it I still reflect. What I notice in this film is the range and depth of human deception. While I don’t want to believe we are capable of this, I believe I have seen it in action.

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