An author forms a strange bond with her eccentric maid that will have a lasting effect on both women.
User Reviews: Szabo Istvan is not a contemplative filmmaker – which I don’t really mean as an insult. A lot of "contemplative" filmmakers, at their worst, seem constipated more than anything (see some of the films of Szabo’s younger countryman, Tarr Bela), whereas Szabo can achieve a forward propulsion that can at times be dazzling, as in the films with scenery-chewing actor Klaus Maria Brandeur that were the height of his international fame, or in "Being Julia." The director has a peculiar way of editing that has existed from his early Hungarian features ("Father," "25 Fireman’s Street"); scenes often end abruptly, as though he had chopped the end off them, and then run to the next scene. This gives Szabos’ films an odd rhythm that is alluring in his best work, but maddening and even incoherent in his less successful efforts.
"The Door" is not a peak; it is hardly a failure either. It shows the Szabo style at its best and worst. The dialogue is flung out by the actors, and can have the kind of hard brilliance that’s found in the old screwball comedies (Helen Mirren, in what may be the best performance of her career as an astonishingly cantankerous old cleaning woman, has some especially hilarious insults and bitter, sour-faced advice-dispensing here), but much of it is also simply hard to catch. The movie keeps a fine, sprinting pace most of the way through. It only starts to crumble in the final quarter, at which point I admit I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. And here we have the failure of Szabo’s films uncontemplative style. Watching his less successful films it is as if his producer has told him that he absolutely must clock in at under a certain time. "The Door" feels rushed; it hurries to the end, and suffers for it. One feels the same in other films directed by Szabo: "Taking Sides," which is gripping and interesting but finally frustrating, and the ambitious "Sunshine," which attempts to stuff Hungarian history from the late 19th century to the post-war era in under three hours.
Still, "The Door" is almost a great film from one of the last living European film directors of the old school. All of Szabo’s work is worth seeking out. It’s a shame that the few remaining filmmakers in the grand European style are marginalized – even when they make fine English-language movies with Oscar winners (see also Tavernier’s "In the Electric Mist"), it’s lucky if these see the light of day in most countries, while young "provocateurs" with nothing to say are lauded in the major festivals. And there’s something at my local cinema titled "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters"…