Ének a Csodaszarvasról (Song of the Miraculous Hind) is a semi-educational 2002 mythological animated movie from Hungary, directed by Marcell Jankovics and released by the Pannonia Film Studio. It chronicles the ancient Hungarian history and myths via abstract animation that switches between dreamlike and more realistic. The stories are told through a combination of pure visuals, numerous narrators, spoken dialogue and period-appropriate songs, composed by Levente Szörényi.
The film is split into four main episodes or songs, each inspired by imagery found on an ancient vase from the Treasure of Nagyszentmiklós:
- Őshaza (Land of Origin): Siberian Creation Myth about the genesis of the first humans, animals and plants, the mythological significance of deer, and origin of the Finno-Ugric peoples.
- Hunor és Magyar (Hunor and Magyar): The legend of the Miraculous Hind, a mythological telling of how Hungarians came to Europe.
- Mindig tovább (On and On): Compressed retelling of various myths and historical events related to the Hungarians' conquest of the Carpathian Basin.
- Pannónia: Hungarians cease their conquest and settle into Europe, taking up Christianity.
The film, though not a failure, was also met with controversy and disinterest, and is Jankovics's most overlooked feature. Critics praised the bold and experimental visuals but were unimpressed by the animation quality and the lack of a plot. Much criticism targeted the way the film floods the senses with a constant, fast flowing stream of information via incomprehensible ancient symbolism, song lyrics that are hard to make out, little differentiation between fact, fiction and disputed theories, and bonkers art design most only describe as psychedelic. Being a partially educational work with no attempt to entertain, many viewers found it unengaging, while the nudity, violence and allusions to sex were thought unsuitable for young schoolchildren. Some even accused the film of being propaganda, in part due to Jankovics's strong rightwing nationalist leanings and his political position at the time of its production.
These days, the film is seen as an interesting and passionate art experiment by most and a Stoner Flick by some, though its handling of its subject matter remains a topic of debate.
- Art Shift: Each segment has a different art style, ranging from realistically drawn and shaded scenes of humans to nearly psychedelic, abstract art with wild colors depicting the realm of gods and spirits.
- Creation Myth: The first scene tells a Siberian folk myth of how the gods created the world.
- Deranged Animation: Being a Jankovics film, the visual style is deliberately surreal, taking inspiration from abstract ancient art from the cultures and eras each scene is set in.
- Genre-Busting: The film tries to be both educational and esoteric, combines historic facts and myth, alternates between voice acting, narration and musical segments, and instead of a narrative, presents a point-by-point overview of ancient Hungarian legends and history. Officially, it's an animated historical fantasy film.
- Patriotic Fervor: Some viewers brought this up as a possible critique, calling the film nationalist propaganda. For his part, Jankovics felt that his Hungarian audience should be more attuned to their pre-Christian heritage and he was open about being a hardcore nationalist, but making art was his main calling.
- World of Symbolism: The entire film alternates between realistic historical scenes and dreamlike visualizations of legends, especially the early Creation Myth segment where each character and act represents an aspect of the world's origins.