Márta Mészáros, Adoption, (Hungary, 1975).
Adoption is about the value of making a real, meaningful connection and the beauty of honest friendship in a cold, despondent world where each can often be so hard to find.
Márta Mészáros has brilliantly conveyed a sad, depressing mood. Kata is an older woman who os involved with a married man, whom she has apparently been seeing for many years. Kata has decided she wants children. Her married boyfriend already has children of his own and doesn’t want to hear anything about it. The sensation that the spectator has entered Kata’s life at a time of great change is noticeable from the very start of the film. One gets the impression that her life has been very much the same for a long time and that in part a reason she has stayed with this married man already so long is that she is literally and figuratively stuck. She is stuck in the familiarity of routine, which is quite easy to let happen even if the routine is rather bad.
Anna is a younger girl, probably in her mid teens, from an orphanage near where Kata lives. When Anna goes out with her friends for breaks from the orphanage it seems that they often see Kata and that Kata has already become quite aware of them as well. When Anna runs away from the orphanage, she goes to Kata, hoping that she can stay with her for a while, at least long enough to see her boyfriend when he visits, and then she’ll go back. Before Anna enters Kata’s life it is apparent that Kata is suffering. She is all alone in the world and her man is quite distant and does nothing but reject her appeal for a chance at happiness through a child. Her mood is also conveyed through her stillness and her reluctance to ever smile. She says that she loves this man, but it is really part of the construction that she has built up around herself, over the years, of self imposed alienation and withdrawal. This is quite similar to what Anna has also grown accustomed to doing to herself. In discussing with Kata the possibility of a child, she advises against adoption, saying that all abandoned children are damaged. In this incredibly heartfelt and revealing line Anna is talking more about herself than anyone. Like Kata, Anna has also received a lot of damage to her self esteem.
Anna and Kata quickly develop a bond and take to each other in an almost mother daughter relationship. The mother daughter model, though, they both know can never be truly fulfilled. Nevertheless, they form a strong and significant relationship. This relationship is the most important in the entire film, more so than Kata’s oppressive relationship with the married man and even more so than Anna’s relation to her boyfriend, and eventual husband.
The conclusion of the film is quite interesting in that both Anna and Kata fulfill what each, throughout the film, desires the most. Anna, with Kata’s help, marries her boyfriend and Kata, in the film’s final scene is shown adopting a baby. Each momentous event, though, is represented as distant. Anna’s wedding is shown as a great and festive event but Anna does not seem happy. In her final shot the spectator sees her, but does not hear her. She seems to be fighting with her new husband and as he walks away Anna appears sad, hurt, entirely unfulfilled. Apparently the wedding that she wanted so bad does not in the end make her happy. In her final scene, in a room crowded with celebrating people she is shown alone and says nothing. In Kata’s final scene she finally adopts a baby, but even at this point she still does not smile. The final shot is of her running with the baby in her arms toward a bus and the film leaves questions about her future happiness inconclusive. Each of the women fulfills their dreams, their life-changing wishes. Through each event, though, each woman identifies herself in relation to a totally traditional female standard. Anna becomes a wife and Kata becomes a mother. Their dreams, what they thought would make them happy, what they expected would bring meaning and fulfillment to their lives, was defined and decided by societal and cultural preconceptions of female expectation. Each of the women was, at the film’s beginning, certainly unhappy and unconventional. They were like two resistances to social standards of how a woman is to behave. They were each, through circumstances out of their control, decided by third parties (for Anna, her parents and for Kata, the married man), denied their conventional cultural roles as women. This lack contributed significantly to the sense of loss that each felt and therefore to each woman’s unhappiness. At the film’s conclusion, though, they supply each of their lives with what it was that they had been denied and were lacking. However, when the film ends, neither of the two is by any means convincingly happy. Their futures seem as uncertain as ever. This inconclusiveness and absolute resistance to comedic form that Mészáros implements in Adoption seems to suggest that the antiquated societal and cultural ideals that have traditionally defined femininity, and the role of the woman, are no longer entirely valid. Each of the two women was most happy in the bond that they had alone established between the two. Unconventional, by most respects, as their relationship may have been, perhaps it was its unconventionality which made it work so well.