Az ember tragédiája/The Tragedy of Man is a fantastic film that I've never seen discussed. It's based on the 1861 play of the same name – regarded as one of the greatest works of Hungarian literature – and follows Adam, guided by Lucifer, as he journeys through history, from humanity's inception in the Garden of Eden till its wretched end.
Although the film began production in 1988, it wasn't released until 2011. After the collapse of Hungary's communist government, director Marcell Jankovics had to finance each of the film's fifteen segments individually, some of which were screened at film festivals or on Hungarian TV over the years. In fact, the end product had to be re-dubbed since the original voice actors were too old by the time the animation was complete.
Jankovics actually believed that the play was better suited to the animation medium rather than the stage, which I agree with. Animation really unfetters the story and leaves it free to express itself on a grander scale, with each historical period being represented by the artstyle of the time. For example, the segment that takes place in Ancient Greece takes the form of engraved pottery, whereas the far future segment is all bold lines and part-monochrome to reflect the sterile and mechanical world. My personal favourite is the cross-hatched style in the Prague scene – aesthetics aside, it also visually represents the restricted thinking of the era, in contrast to the clean, fluid animation of the following French Revolution, reverting back to cross-hatching when said revolution fails.
The film begins with the creation of the universe and the Fall of Man soon after. Having been cast out of Paradise, a prideful Adam is determined to pursue personal glory. In response, Lucifer whisks him away to Ancient Egypt – where Adam the pharaoh, having built a magnificent pyramid, has realised his desires at the cost of countless slave lives. He then reasons that equality between men is the true road to happiness, and is transported to a democratic Greece in chaos. The rest of the film follows this formula, with each of Adam's dreams being exposed as futile, and Adam himself growing older and wearier with each ensuing cycle.
Eve also appears in each cycle of Adam's journey, providing him with the hope to strive on for a better outcome. In this way, she is ultimately his downfall.
The ending is what really sets "Az ember tragédiája" apart, IMO. God is unfathomable, his intentions impossible to comprehend. Whether he truly has an unknowable plan for mankind, or is simply a callous creator, is left up to the viewer.
>Man, I have spoken: Struggle and have faith!
<The end is death; life is a struggle. And man's end is the struggle itself.
And so, Adam resigns humanity to pushing the boulder up the hill until the last man's cold, miserable death.
Overall, I think it's a beautiful film and I'm thankful to have seen it. Apparently the director felt the same way as he was in his 70s by the time his movie was finally released, lol.
I highly recommend you check this one out.