The Angelmakers

Astrid Bussink.

Scotland/Hungary, 2005, 33 min.

abussinkWhat is great about documentaries is that they often present stories which are stranger than fiction, stories that seem to be straight out of a novel or a fiction film. Astrid Bussink’s The Angelmakers tells one such tale about a group of Hungarian women who were convicted of poisoning and killing over 150 people in 1929. The women, feeling trapped by their husbands or other men in their lives (almost all the victims were men), poisoned them with arsenic the women had extracted from flypaper by dissolving it in water.

Instead of relying on recreations or archival photographs (although the photos do end up in the credits), Bussink tells the story through the memories of the local villagers in Nabyrév. Many of the people she talks with were related to or familiar with one or more of the convicted women. They tell the story as though it happened just last year. And because they are in their own settings and the camera work is casual, the interviews never feel like talking heads.

The story unfolds slowly with the villagers’ memories intercut with various shots of village life. A teacher teaches her students about arsenic, a group of men drink and dance in a bar, a women’s dance club performs outside. The cutaway shots are successful in conveying a certain feel for the small village.

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