Love will make you do crazy things. So what happens when that love is unrequited love? How far will you go for love? That’s what’s at the heart of writer-director Lili Horvát’s second feature “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time.” The film opens with Márta in a therapy session recounting her experience and we feel like we’ve got the makings for a French New Wave type film. Márta Vizy (Natasa Stork) is a 39-year-old Hungarian neurosurgeon with a successful career in the States. At a medical conference, she meets fellow Hungarian János (Viktor Bodó) and they hit it off, but János must return back home to Hungary. So in their “An Affair to Remember” moment, they decide to meet up in a month at Liberty Bridge in Budapest. Crazy right?!
Márta hasn’t been back to Budapest in 20 years, but she shows up for the scheduled rendezvous — but János is a no show. One day she sees János in a parking lot and stops him. But he has no idea who she is. So overwhelmed by his dismissal, Márta faints in the middle of the parking lot and is brought to by a caring crowd of people. Márta is devastated but she is not ready to throw in the towel just yet. She decides to stay in Budapest and track János down. At this point, we don’t know if we’re going to have a “Fatal Attraction” type situation or what. Márta forgets her life back in the States, gets a crappy apartment, and secures a job at the same hospital that János used to work at. Leading a lonely, solitary existence, she works during the day and goes home to cyberstalk János at night.
One day she gets a new patient who comes in with his son — that son just so happens to be one of the concerned bystanders to her fainting spell. They recognize each other and because of this, the son wants to get a second opinion and another surgeon to perform his dad’s operation. On the day of the surgery, the other surgeon is none other than János. To say “thank you” for healing his dad, Alex (Benett Vilmányi) asks Márta to dinner. She seems to be going along with things until he asks if he can come up to her place. And then that situation turns into somewhat of an unrequited love setup. Márta and János continue to keep crossing paths and having these awkward interactions. There’s even a really awkward sex scene between the two that makes one believe that maybe they did have some sort of relationship prior. But their interactions always end abruptly with him disappearing leading one to believe that maybe this “relationship” is just a figment of her imagination — is this all just a fever dream? So many questions, but no answers — until one day after disappearing for a while, János shows up on her doorstep to apologize for how things have transpired.
The film is dark and moody and shot on 35mm giving it somewhat of art-house, dated feel full of depressive realism. There’s always an ominous feeling that something just isn’t right, but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is — this tension stays throughout the whole movie. The main character is a lonely obsessive who you can’t quite figure out — she’s a successful surgeon but at the same time, she seems as if she might be slightly unhinged — but then again, all of the characters seems that way a little. The film is frustrating because it’s like a puzzle and you keep getting clues, but they don’t fit together in a cohesive picture. There are scenes and elements that seem unnecessary and just seem to be there to add more confusion to the story (like the relationship with Alex or the awkward masturbation scene). You finally get an answer at the end of the film, but it leaves you unsatisfied. In the end “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time” is a slow burn that has all the elements that build and build into something that could be quite interesting but end the falls short and doesn’t quite gel.