Based on the short story/essay One Human Minute by Stanislaw Lem, 1 is a Hungarian film adaptation by director Pater Sparrow who has created a baffling, mesmerizing and beautiful film.

1 opens with a series of clips of strange found footage depicting a variety of events from mankind’s history. It then cuts to a bookstore closing for the night where suddenly all the books are seemingly magically replaced by the same book. The book is large and white and bears the title ‘1’. Inside are pages and pages of statistical data that boils down everything about the current human existence into raw mathematical data.

Tasked with investigating the ‘theft’ of the original books and the appearance of these ‘1’ books and their spread across the world is the mysterious Reality Defense Institute who institutionalize the people who witnessed the bookshop event and try and find out what is going on. Leading the investigation is Phil Pitch, played brilliantly by Zolt├ín Mucsi, who begins to feel the effects of the investigation and the strange and powerful book.

1 deals with heavyweight themes but does so in a way that never simplifies them or denies their complexities. The film does border on being something of a mess as a result but a beautiful and intoxicating mess nonetheless. I really want to watch 1 again as I’m sure more of the various ideas will come together better on a second viewing but just based on the one viewing of 1 I would happily recommend it.

The visual style of 1 is fantastic and Sparrow’s stylish direction is aided by beautiful and imaginative set designs that help create the appropriate sci-fi mixed with low-tech look. The scripting and editing of the film is also incredibly tight and it has the fast pace of an episode of CSI but with attempts at the depth of a Tarkovsky film (Tarkovsky also adapted Lem with his 1972 Solaris). Consistently engaging and thought provoking, 1 is an exceptional science fiction film and one not be missed.

I saw another Hungarian science fiction film earlier this year, entitled Transmission (which shares the same editor as this film) and I was equally impressed. I am now anxious to check out more contemporary Hungarian cinema as these two make me wonder if there are even more gems out there to find. Leave any recommendations you have in the comments below.

You can watch the trailer for 1 embedded below.