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The Man from London (2009)

aka The Man from London

Details: 139 mins · English, French, Hungarian

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Plot:

The film concerns a middle-aged railway pointsman, Maloin (Miroslav Krobot), who lives in a decrepit apartment in a port town with his highly-strung wife Camélia (Tilda Swinton) and his daughter Henriette (Erika Bók). One night while in his viewing tower at the port's rail terminus, Maloin witnesses a fight on the dockside. One of the shady combatants is knocked into the water along with the briefcase he carries; when the other flees the dark quayside, Maloin makes a clandestine descent from the tower and retrieves the briefcase, which he finds full of sodden English banknotes. Maloin conceals the money and tells no-one of what he has seen. The next morning, he visits a tavern where he plays chess with the barkeep (Gyula Pauer). On his way home, he stops by the butcher's where his daughter works, and finds to his indignation that they have her washing the floor. Later, from the window of his apartment, he notices Brown (János Derzsi) watching him from below. At dinner, Maloin is increasingly irascible, addressing Henriette brusquely and arguing with Camélia. Meanwhile Brown searches the water at the dock's edge without success before noticing the watchtower overlooking the quayside, and Maloin within.

Later at the tavern, a police inspector from London named Morrison (István Lénárt) discusses with Brown the matter of the stolen money. Morrison claims to be working on behalf of a theater owner named Mitchell, a theatre owner from whose office safe the £55,000 was stolen. Morrison proposes that Brown, being intimately familiar with Mitchell's office, is the only man he knows who was capable of making away with the money without raising alarm. Morrison indicates that Mitchell cares only that the money is returned swiftly, and is even prepared to offer a two nights' theater takings in exchange. When Morrison mentions having visited Brown's wife and asks what he should tell Mitchell, Brown leaves the room under a pretense and slips out a side door. Nearby playing chess with the barkeep, Maloin has overheard the conversation.

Maloin calls to the butcher's and drags Henriette from the store against her will and over the protestations of the butcher's wife (Kati Lázár). He brings her to the tavern for a drink, where he overhears the barkeep telling another patron the story of Brown's meeting with the inspector, revealing that Morrison had called the local police when Brown absconded. Though Henriette refuses her drink, Maloin buys her an expensive mink stole. They return home to the consternation of Camélia, who cannot comprehend why Maloin has ruined Henriette's chances of a job and spent what little savings the family had on the extravagant stole. During Maloin's shift the next night he is visited by Morrison, who questions him as to the previous night's events as the body of the drowned man is retrieved from the quayside below.

The next day at the tavern, Morrison meets Brown's wife (Agi Szirtes), and tells her that Brown is under suspicion for the theft and for the murder at the quayside. He asks for her help in finding him and repeats to her Mitchell's offer to Brown, but she remains silent. At home, Henriette tells Maloin she found a man in their hut at the seaside, and in fear locked the door and ran home. An agitated Maloin tells her not to tell anyone, and leaves for the hut. He unlocks the door, and receiving no response to his calling Brown's name, steps inside, closing the door behind. Minutes later he re-emerges, breathing heavily. After pausing to compose himself, he locks the door and leaves. In the next scene, Maloin presents the briefcase to Morrison in the tavern, and asks him to arrest him, confessing to having killed Brown an hour ago. Morrison leaves with Maloin for the hut, dismissing the frenzied inquiries of Brown's wife about her husband and handing the briefcase to the barkeep on the way out. Brown's wife follows the men to the hut, and emerges weeping with Brown moments later. Back at the tavern, Morrison prepares two envelopes with a small portion of the recovered money in each. One he leaves with the grieving widow to whom he apologizes and wishes well, while the other he gives to Maloin, telling him that his case was one of self-defense. As he is preparing to leave, Morrison advises Maloin to go home and forget the whole affair. The camera focuses on the expressionless face of Brown's wife momentarily before fading to white.

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