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Animation / Foam Bath

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Animated musical to the rhythm of a heartbeat.

Habfürdő (known as Foam Bath or Bubble Bath in English) is an obscure 1979note  animated musical Romantic Comedy made by Hungary's Pannonia Film Studio, the only feature-length film of artist György Kovásznai.

One day, the dull life of lonely medical student Anna Parádi is interrupted by Zsolt Mohai, a tall, dark and hysterical shop window decorator, who begs her to phone his fiancé Klára, and call off their impending wedding. Farcical melodrama, misunderstandings, musical numbers and overwrought dialogue follow, with recordings of real everyday parents fitted in, presented in some of the most Deranged Animation ever put out by its home studio. Topics include relationships, parenting, professional careers, the medical field, loyalty, commitment, compromise, and exploring the jaded outlook on life in 1970s Budapest.

Beyond the catchy tunes and social themes, the film is mostly known for its unconventional art design, taking Off-Model animation to the extreme, expressing all of the characters' mood swings in visual form, and even throwing in some Medium Blending. The characters morph, contort, shrink, fall apart, and shift between a multitude of art styles, and the apartment around them is brought to life with a variety of visual effects. Kovásznai's work, having originated from a socialist country with strict censorship in tense political times, has long astonished a number of Western artists and critics with its experimental and satirical nature, and his usual trademarks shine through in the film.

The movie, though, is obscure for a reason. It bombed hard and sank into oblivion, and its director died a few years later, unable to realize any of his future film plans. Foam Bath's failure also meant the studio put a tighter leash on its creators — thankfully, a few standout artistic achievements did still come out, such as Son of the White Horse. It wasn't until the 90s and 2000s that Kovásznai's works were rediscovered and placed into proper historical context, and though the movie still hasn't quite become a Cult Classic, it is now more accessible and gaining newfound recognition. As a sign of its slow surge in popularity, the film was given a restored re-release on Blu-ray, first in France in 2021, then in the United States in 2024, though oddly not in its home country.

This film provides examples of:

  • A Friend in Need: Anna to Klára, always there to bring her down to earth.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Zsolt is in his forties, set to marry Klára who is 23. He points out the absurdity, saying that in his age he'd need a nurse more than a clingy wife who wants him to father five kids. He would rather romance the 25 year old Anna, a nurse in-the-making.
  • All Take and No Give: In one of their songs, Klára tries to convince Anna that her marriage with Zsolt wouldn't be one-sided. Anna, being familiar with Klára's wild personality, isn't convinced.
  • Alone Among the Couples: Anna, who at the end concludes that romantic relationships aren't for her.
  • Art Shift: Happens constantly, often within a single shot. Can lead to Art-Style Dissonance.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Zsolt tries to prevent this, fearing he'd lose his artistic freedom as a husband, especially since he despises his would-be in-laws. Anna also calls out Klára about this, suggesting she'd be a bad wife to Zsolt. Klára reasons that even if they lose their passion for each other, they can still force their relationship.
  • Babies Ever After: Zsolt and Klára are parents by the end.
  • Bearer of Bad News: Zsolt hopes Anna would be well qualified for this role, being a medical student and all. He couldn't have chosen a worse candidate.
  • Bit Character: Nándi's sole narrative purpose is to get Klára to Anna's apartment and then get Zsolt to move from hiding in the bathroom to hiding under a table where he can overhear the two ladies. He only has a couple lines and spends most of his screentime unconscious. Aunt Zsófi, the apartment's owner, mostly just exists to drive home that Anna's too poor to afford her own place and to distract her and Klára while Zsolt sneaks under the table.
  • Book Ends:
    • Story-wise, Anna sitting alone in the same room of her shared apartment, casually swinging her legs.
    • Theme-wise, the TV interview shown at the beginning about the standard socialist family model is mirrored at the end by the newlyweds.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Anna constantly tries but fails to inform her friend Klára that her groom wants to leave her.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Anna and Nándor, at least that's how Klára rationalizes why they're acting weird.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Between Zsolt and Anna, the apartment is soon filled with dense smoke as they muse over their lives and relieve the day's tension.
  • Commitment Issues: Anna is too insecure and concerned with her career to strike up a romance, Zsolt values his freedom and self-pride over a marriage, whereas Klára is too clingy if anything, and wants to settle down as a House Wife at the expense of her career — and perhaps that of her would-be husband, which is why Anna calls Klára out on her ideas over commitment. Most of these views are reconciled one way or another by the end.
  • Deconfirmed Bachelor: Zsolt, by the end, goes through with the wedding after all.
  • Deranged Animation: Ranks among the most experimental animated movies ever made. There is a method to its apparent madness, though: the director called this style "anima verité", taking people or subjects from real life and exaggerating them into extreme caricatures through the magic of animation, to bring awareness to society's problems in a way that live footage can't.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The whole film, but mostly some of the musical scenes, standouts being Zsolt's decorator song and his Imagine Spot, in which he and Anna cycle through a full load of abstract art styles.
  • Dirty Coward: Zsolt, he'd rather burden Anna with his deeply personal issues than just talk to his bride himself.
  • Distant Finale: The epilogue is set a year later as the characters prepare for the naming ceremony of Zsolt and Klára's newborn. Not much else has changed.
  • Documentary: The film was made with a semi-educational purpose, evidenced by the chat about parenting trends between Anna and Zsolt and the segments of actual news footage and real-life interviews that further discuss parenting. Habfürdő even introduced a new term to the movie lexicon, "anima verité", officially defined by scholars as "perfected style of documentarism and psychedelic character-portrait". Director György Kovásznai was a strong devotee of going out to people and putting their everyday lives and struggles into his art. Anima verité became the animated branch of cinéma verité or observational documentary film making; it presents an exaggerated but essentially truthful version of real topics and people via deliberately unrealistic and highly abstract art design in which real emotions, feelings and thoughts are expressed in Deranged Animation. Artists and animators would spend personal time with their subjects and draw them from life. What follows is a lengthy artistic process of exaggerating these life drawings into abstract caricatures that grasp the "essence" of each person and each emotive state. Visual realism and the traditional principles of animation are hardly ever considered in anima verité. Standard animation procedures like artists creating rigid characters designs and model sheets in a closed-off studio room don't apply. The director even assembled his own staff of artists to make the film, rather than relying on the studio's in-house animators.
  • Driven to Suicide: Klára's had two attempts.
  • Drunken Master: Inverted with Nándi, alcohol makes him aggressive as well as easily confused and tired.
  • Excuse Plot: As admitted by the filmmakers, the plot is banally simple on purpose. The film's main concern was discussing social topics, evoking moods with its songs and visuals and encapsulating the zeitgeist of the era.
  • Farce: In between discussing serious topics, the film gradually becomes more and more comically ridiculous.
  • Genre-Busting: The film blends musical, romance, slice of life, sociological commentary with hints of documentarism and comedy.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Nándi after he gets drunk and knocked out cold. No matter the theatrics and loud singing going on around him, nor Anna diving into him, he keeps snoozing.
  • Hidden Depths: Klára at first comes off as spoiled, stubborn and bratty, too distracted by her own cheerfulness to realize how much Zsolt doesn't want to marry. Then she reveals what a wreck her personal life is, and although she wants to marry for superficial reasons, she's ready to make compromises and make her husband happy.
  • Hospital Hottie: Zsolt sees Anna this way, but she's always quick to point out she's still a student.
  • Housewife: Klára aims to be one, until the very end.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Both Anna and Zsolt grow to realize they have feelings for each other and they'd make a decent couple, if only they could burst their personal "bubbles". After a bunch of failed off-screen relationships, Anna concludes she just isn't meant for romances and would rather focus on her career.
  • Insistent Terminology: Zsolt takes offence at his bride's parents having called him a window-dresser instead of a decorator, even though that's how he introduces himself too.
  • Irony: Zsolt runs away from his bride and then proposes to Anna, reasoning he needs a nurse's attention in his age and cannot possibly father five children like Klára wants. His cowardice and manipulation and Anna's insecurity and inability to confess to Klára drive the entire plot and create a Love Triangle that stresses out all three of them. At the end it turns out Klára changed her mind anyway, she'd rather become a nurse to follow Anna's lead after having her first child. In a very roundabout way, Zsolt's attempt to get rid of her bride resulted in Klára becoming the perfect woman for him, a loving wife and the nurse he needed. And all he would have had to do the whole time was talk to her...
  • Just Friends: Though Anna and Zsolt both fall for each other, they posit their relationship is better off as a friendship.
  • Large Ham: Zsolt. He's full of theatrics even without the over-the-top animation style.
  • Love Triangle: Zsolt and Klára are set to marry, but then Anna is looking for a man too, and Zsolt just seems to be her type...
  • M.D. Envy: Referred to by Klára, who doesn't think too highly of the medical field and its hierarchy, at least at first.
  • Medium Blending: Mostly regular cel animation, complemented occasionally with cutouts, stop-motion, still paintings, heavily filtered real-life footage, and various light and atmospheric effects achieved via multiple camera passes.
  • Mind Screw: The story, characters and themes may be grounded in reality for the most part, but the visuals aim for the abstract. Take for instance the final song, where the characters swim around in the floor and furniture, Zsolt turns into a cloud of bubbles, and his diving gear sprouts breathing tanks on the fly.
  • Mistaken for Afterlife: Inverted when the houselady thinks Zsolt in a diver's suit is the ghost of her husband.
  • Mood-Swinger: All three leads.
  • Motifs: Bubbles, water and diving. Seemingly unrelated to the goings-on, they reoccur in several scenes (Zsolt driving his car on a wet road, the characters drinking bubbly champagne, Anna's diving hobby, Zsolt hiding in a bubbly bath in Anna's diver suit, the characters literally diving into and swimming in the room and singing about discovering their own depths, and Zsolt's bubble bath at the end). The epilogue goes out of its way to explain what this symbolism and the title itself mean: bubbles represent personal and social boundaries that Anna and Zsolt could not burst despite wanting to, while the more confident, outspoken and social Klára did so with ease, at one point even unwittingly.
  • The Musical: Two concepts were weighed for the movie, a musical and a standard film drama; in the end, the musical version won out to play to the animated medium's strengths.
  • Musical World Hypotheses: The film shuffles between the "Alternate Universe", "All In Their Heads", "Diegetic" and "Adaptation" hypotheses. It's normal for the characters to burst into song, with their behavior, their appearance and environments drastically changing to fit each tune, and sometimes others are shown reacting to the musical numbers (Anna nervously listening to Klára's song on the phone, Zsolt tapping his feet while the folks in the other room sing and dance). Most of the songs just elaborate on what the characters are talking or thinking about without moving the plot, some of them are clearly imaginary, but the final duet between Klára and Zsolt is a special case. Rather than being an addition to a lengthier talking scene like most other songs, it wraps up the main plot completely by itself without any extraneous dialogue.
  • Nerd Glasses: Anna wears these.
  • Nervous Wreck: Zsolt, but Anna and Klára have their moments as well.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Zsolt is enraged by the disparaging comments of Klára's family about his profession as a store window decorator.
  • Perspective Reversal: Nearly avoiding a nervous breakdown, Zsolt becomes a (literal) wooden puppet cradled by Anna as he asks her to examine him and give him a new reason to live. Later on, as he becomes more assertive and confident, Anna turns into a display dummy for Zsolt to tinker with in an Imagine Spot.
  • Remaster: The first major restoration was around 2010, released in conjunction with a limited-edition retrospective book on the director. A higher quality, cleaned-up restoration came out in 2021.
  • Revenge Romance: Though Klára does love Zsolt, she mainly wants to marry him get back at an older lover of hers.
  • Rule of Animation Conservation: Plot-wise there is zero reason for this to be an animated film. Most of it takes place in a small apartment, the characters mostly just sit or stand around and talk endlessly, and there's a couple physical gags at best. The reason for why it's animated is Kovásznai's "anime verité" style, an extreme self-indulgence of experimental Deranged Animation where literally everything is in constant visual flux, morphing, flashing and distorting to reflect moods, emotions or simply the animators' whims. He specifically set out to make an anti-Disney film, in which the content is realistic and non-fantastical but the visual style is completely detached from realism and the usual rules of animation. The musical numbers also play around with the visuals and are the only parts of the film that couldn't be easily done in live action.
  • Runaway Fiancé: Zsolt chickening out of his marriage drives the events.
  • Shipping Torpedo: Zsolt tries to force Anna into this role against her wishes. By the end, as Anna grows fond of Zsolt and attempts to prevent his wedding, she fails miserably.
  • Ship Tease: Much of the film is setting up a possible relationship between Zsolt and Anna.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Zsolt, a mere window-dresser, regards himself as a magnificent artist and is something of a philosopher to boot.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: Though all leads smoke, Klára makes it look good.
  • Sustained Misunderstanding: Played to excess for much of the plot — first, Anna's unable to tell Klára that Zsolt wants to abandon her, then as she begins falling for Zsolt, her continued attempts at talking to Klára just lead to her bursting into tears. Each time, Klára fills in the blanks with her own interpretation and Anna digs herself deeper.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Klára is this to Zsolt, for most of the movie.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Nándi, a brutish heavyweight boxer with a squeaky voice.
  • Wedding Finale: Zsolt's insistence on cancelling his wedding is what sets things in motion, but he changes his mind at the end and does marry Klára.
  • Wham Line: Two of Klára's announcements. First, Zsolt overhears her confession that their relationship has been a Revenge Romance, but over time she's grown to sincerely love him. This convinces him to finally face her, have a talk, and hold the wedding. Then at the end, Klára reveals to his husband she knew all along that there had been something between him and Anna, but she doesn't mind. Instead, she's been inspired by Anna to rethink her life and career goals, and wants to be a nurse like Anna.
  • Where It All Began: From Anna's perspective, little ends up changing. The movie finishes with her sitting in the same room, in the same clothes, in the same position, and still single. Zsolt was just one of her many failed romances, though at least they remain friends.