Preparations To Be Together For An Unknown Period of Time Explanation will be a tricky one. Lili Horvat, the Hungarian director has plans for us, and until now, I don’t think we’ve understood really what those plans are. Normally, after watching a confounding film I go for a walk… have a shower… sleep on it… and just let the movie fester. Preparations To Be Together for an Unknown Period required zero of that time because I had a bead on this one the second it ended. So exultant was I that I knew what Lili Horvat was doing here that I took a victory lap around the interwebs and read other reviewers thoughts on this confounding film, and I can honestly say, no one gets this movie. Now, granted, I could be wrong. Sure. It’s happened once before. (heheh). But I really think this one unfolded its secrets as I watched, and it literally is the opposite of what most people think is happening here.
First though, some of you coming to this post read my site regularly, and you’ve never heard of this one. Well, if you enjoyed the crazy film, On Body and Soul, this one will be for you without a doubt. I first mentioned it over on Spotlight 27, and have been fixated on this one until I got a chance to sit and watch it. Horvat has crafted a story about a brilliant woman Vizy Márta (played gloriously by Natasa Stork) that is ghosted by a man (played by Viktor Bodó) she met in America. They promised to meet up on the Pest side of the Liberty bridge in a month. But when he stands her up, Vizy makes it her quest to figure out exactly what happened to him. This one is a slow burn that will require you to put your thinking cap on, and pay attention to every detail. Is she going insane? Did they ever meet at all? Did something happen this guy? Amnesia? Is this entire life just a dream? What is going on here? Everything is on the table.
Preparations To Be Together For An Unknown Period of Time Walkthrough
The framework of Preparations To Be Together For An Unknown Period of Time is held together by Vizy’s conversations with a therapist. And this one device is critical to understanding this larger idea. Why? We’ll get to that. But trust me when I tell you that Vizy’s sitting and explaining her situation to a (male) therapist is critical to getting this film. Squirrel the idea away, and we’ll get to it. It also works as a great framing device for filling the audience in to what is going on here. Basically, the long and short of it is that Vizy, a brilliant brain surgeon has been living and working in America for fifteen years. She is world-renowned at her craft, and we see this play out numerous times throughout the film’s 95-minute run time.
So, got it. We have a brilliant brain surgeon in America, and during a conference, she stumbles into Drexler János, another Hungarian brain surgeon who also happens to be from Budapest. Immediately Vizy knows that he is right just as he is. She’s never been struck like this by another human being. And it hits her so hard, that she promises to meet him again, in a month, on the Liberty Bridge in Budapest. Woah. Big change for Vizy… but she is struck so hard by this man, she goes all in and withdraws on everything she knows and loves in the United States. She turns her back on her career (she quits), her friends (she stops taking their calls), and disappears back into Budapest.
When she arrives at the bridge, he doesn’t show. Drexler completely ghosts her. Worse, they never exchanged numbers, or email addresses, so she has no real way to contact him. In fact, the ghosting is so hardcore she begins to wonder if she’s going mad. Maybe their relationship back in America never really happened?? And she admits as much to her counselor. After things go south though, she doesn’t pack her bags and head back to America and beg for her job back. She decides she is going to stay and figure this puzzle out. And as she sees it, there really are only three options here: 1) Drexler has lost his mind – literally 2) She has lost her mind – literally 3) Or Drexler has just peaced out. Hrmm. Let’s walk this journey with her and see if we can figure it out as well, shall we?
“Obsessed with objectively finding out whether János’ dismissal means a hurtful betrayal on his part or the symptom of a pathology afflicting her, Márta arranges to live and work as close to him as possible.”
Vizy rents a horrible dump with a view that looks towards Drexler’s home. She takes a horrible job, and is instantly despised by the other doctors for her giving up on her prestigious career in America. And at first, she’s all kinds of dead at what in going on at the hospital. The all male doctors discredit her at every turn, and she passively listens as they don’t take her seriously. But she doesn’t care, because this job is just filler between chances to investigate Drexler and figure out exactly what has happened. I will say this, that when Vizy finds Drexler and confronts him, Drexler’s complete ignorance as to who she is is really important. They are standing in a parking lot, and she asks why he ghosted her, and he tells her that she has mistaken him for someone else. Huh. Wow. Weird. What is going on here?
She stalks him as he leaves his job, and follows him home. The woman taxi cab driver tells her that if she has to stalk her husband she has already lost him. Afterwards, she tells her therapist that she wanted this relationship so badly that she filled in the fictional details, and made it seem real to herself. She doesn’t even believe her own mind that it actually did happen. “I’ve lost my mind – I wanted it so badly.” We even learn that she has done this before. Huh. Yeah, my vote is totally on the insanity inside track. Has to be. She’s done this before? Yeah, she’s losing it. Hrmmm.
Eventually, she is begrudgingly given a patient to help with. Someone that will ultimately need brain surgery. But the patient’s son (a medical student himself) wants anyone other than Vizy to operate. And when the operation starts, it is Drexler that has been called in to audit the surgery and make certain that Vizy doesn’t screw it all up. And when Drexler watches the virtuoso at work, he’s amazed at what a fantastic job she does. Using her technique of keeping the patient awake as she excises the tumor, she is able to pay attention to the effect the cutting is having on his cognition. Her fantastic technical execution does two things. One, it causes Drexler to begin engaging her (again?). Two, it causes the patient’s son to begin chasing her down as well. So now we have a love triangle of sorts… a confusing interleaving of desires and hopeful intentions. Vizy is maybe chasing Drexler, but maybe not.
Let’s pause for a moment and talk about this. Not the triangle, but the cat and mouse game that is occurring between Márta and Drexler. In America, Márta Vizy completely fell for this Hungarian neurosurgeon. We know this to be a fact. Now. We aren’t perfectly clear as to whether or not this was all made up, and in her mind, but let’s set this detail aside for now. She comes to the Liberty bridge and he doesn’t show. When she tracks him down and asks why he ghosted her, what does he say? “You have me mistaken for someone else.” Boom. Done. Oh. Okay. Then, the tables turn and she ooh-la-la’s him in the operating room. “95% of surgeons would have kept going.” Right? Then later, when Drexler asks her about the parking lot before? What does she say? Wait for it. She says, “I mistook you for someone else.” Mic drop. Wait, what? WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE? She is desperate for this guy, the realness of their relationship, and she waht?! She says, my bad, coach, mistook you for some other Joe? We are going to have to come back to this – because I think something important is happening right here but I just don’t know what exactly. (Do you? Don’t worry, I got this… this is called, “Creating DRAMATIC TENSION!” It’ll eventually all come together, I promise.
Drexler then invites Vizy, and half of the Budapest (do you pronounce it Budapesht? like all the cool kids do? I’m just curious how you pronounce that city name… I know, rabbit. My bad.) to his book publication party. Apparently it was recently just signed with a publisher in America even. “The universe around us is enormous. And exceptional mysteries are all around us. Yet, we all have an equally enormous mystery in our possession… within us. In the microcosm of our consciousness.”
“Dr. Drexler, do you believe in ghosts?”
“Sometimes I see someone on the street, and I feel that I know them. That they are a long dead patient of mine. Would they be ghosts? I don’t think so.”
So the guy is insane? He sees people randomly walking the streets and thinks they are dead patients of his? Huh. Is this our explanation of what is going on? (No. Not it is not. But its interesting all the same.) Later, Drexler randomly shows up and sits next to her at a music recital, and it’s then that he tells her that most doctors would have gone too far in that surgery. But afterwards they are separated and Vizy sees him leave with another woman.
Circling back to the narrative arc of the counseling, we see that Vizy is hoping for a diagnosis. A scientific result that will account for this surreal turn of events in her life. The psychologist realizes that she would like to be diagnosed with a personality disorder. Or some sort of scientific explanation for the falseness of the very “real” events that she thought occurred in the United States.
And then things begin to happen fairly quickly between Alex (the medical student) and Drexler. Vizy and Alex go on a date, but then Vizy changes her mind about it all. Alex refuses to let it go, and shows up at her apartment. Vizy makes it pretty clear that he has to leave, and shuts him down quickly. Simultaneously, Drexler begins stalking her regularly. Showing up across the street, and they walk together, apart. But then he disappears, only to reappear when she arrives at her apartment. But then she bails out and says she has to go to a thing. The next morning, he is there again, and asks if she is planning to stay a while. She says she thinks she will. Hinted in this question is the idea that she could go back to America at any moment. That her arrival here in Hungary really makes no sense at all, unless their relationship really did start there in America.
They go shopping together – look at furniture together. Then later that night, Drexler shows up at Vizy’s apartment and they make love. The next morning he leaves before Vizy wakes. And Drexler leaves his stuff at her house… his phone, his calendar, his jacket. In his calendar she finds an entry for someone named “Fanni”… thinking the worst, she marches over to his house, and asks to speak to Fanni’s “husband” or “boyfriend”… but Fanni tells Vizy that she is his daughter. Then Vizy watches in through the window, and she sees him playing with his kids, and we watch as he notices her watching. The next day, Drexler walks up to her door, and Vizy doesn’t open… but even so, he talks at the door, and here is what he says:
“In America, all I remember is… Us looking at each other. And that we were standing at the coffee machine… and we talked. That we should meet again. But I didn’t think for a second that it was serious. And, when you showed up in that parking lot, I got scared. I had no idea what you were talking about. I’ve got two daughters. Fanni, the oldest is a med student. But the little one… Lisa is just starting fourth grade. And the thing is, for a while now, I’m alone with them. And this whole thing is so hard. But now, I’m really here. Márta? Are you there?”
Drexler then heads over to the bridge where they originally agreed to meet. The Liberty bridge. And while he’s there, he comes to an idea. And that is when he has the audio system (that is much too big for her front door) to be delivered. Drexler leaves the guys to hoist the sound system into her apartment, and the movie ends with speaker hanging in the sky as Vizy watches on.
Wait What Just Happened in Preparations To Be Together For An Unknown Period of Time??
On Gender Disparity and Preparations – This is the theory that explains this movie perfectly. And I will not listen to anyone that chooses to tell me differently. Yeah, I’ll give you another option on how to view this film, but this is 10000% the “right” answer. I almost named it, “On Mansplaining and Preparations”, because that makes way more sense. But I really think that if you read this explanation, and then watch it over again you’ll see exactly what I mean.
This school of thought spins this movie on its head and says that men regularly make women think they are going insane. ‘Men Gaslighting Women and Preparations’. Think about it, Drexler and Vizy share an intimate moment that lights both their cortex’s. But instead of owning his actions, Drexler bails out on the commitment. And instead of owning his actions, he ghosts her. Worse, after it happens, he makes her think that she is the one in the wrong!!
Don’t believe me that this is the way to think about this movie? Think about the rest of the movie. Vizy Márta moves back from a prestigious job in America, as one of the best neurosurgeons in the world, and instead of being welcomed with open arms, all the men at the hospital tell her she is stupid, and that she can’t do any of the work. Even after proving herself time and time again, she only receives ONE PATIENT. They should have been falling over themselves to get her working and bringing her expertise home instead of using it for rich patients. And simultaneously, Drexler does the same thing to her, but in the realm of love. (This is the right answer… this other theory on memory is stupid.)
On Memory and Preparations – There are several ways you can interpret this movie – the first, and primary way to lens this movie is through the concept of memory and perception. We know that for Márta, she immediately, and irrevocably, fell in love with Drexler in America. When talking to her psychologist, she leads us to believe that they spent the week together, had this miraculous time together… etc., etc. It was an epiphany for her. But later, Drexler says that they were in line, getting a coffee, when they agreed to meet in a month at the bridge. For Drexler it probably was a joke! It meant nothing. Then later, when she confronts him, he has absolutely no idea who she is, because only a mad woman would take that to mean that they had anything worth mentioning.
Or, another way to view this memory lens, is to say that Vizy and Drexler did spend a rapturous time together. Heck, maybe it was one night. And possibly, Drexler freaked out. He realized that he has two young daughters that he has been caring for for quite some time now. And that he sort of felt like he was abandoning them in this flight of fancy. And so he pushes her out of his memory – only to be shocked to be tracked down from America a month later.
Lili Horvát spoke out in favor of this particular theory. I’m sad I’m going to have to let her know she is wrong about her own movie… but you gotta do what you gotta do: ““To me, ‘Preparations…’ is primarily a personal story about the role of projection in love. Our film plays out in the unsettlingly murky no-man’s-land that separates love from madness. To what extent do we construct love stories within ourselves? How far does our desired reality go, and where does it meet actual reality? How differently can two people experience the same love? It hows the inner journey of a strong, determined and yet fragile woman: a neurosurgeon who has achieved everything in her career, yet something fundamental is deeply missing from her life.” (COUGH BS COUGH.)
My Thoughts on Preparations
The last shot of the movie is a gallows. Don’t remember it? Here, let me remind you:
Vizy has just been given a stereo system she doesn’t want, nor does she need. But it’s from the “man of her dreams”, and so she is going along with it even though it won’t go through her front door. What’s that got to do with anything? Well, it’s pretty clear that Márta is having a hard time coping with the wild fluctuations coming from Drexler. He admitted out loud that he was scared, that he’d been alone with his daughters for a while, and that he basically ran from her. This is truth. But we don’t know to what level their relationship consisted of while Drexler visited America. Did she leap off a cliff when chasing him? Maybe. Did he freak out when being chased? Maybe. Did the movie show a smart woman being talked down to by men who were not nearly as good as she is in their profession? Definitely.
The dance of gender and perspective is a slippery one. I regularly find myself struggling to communicate clearly with my wife. This is a fact. And yet, even the title here is fascinating to me. “Preparations To Be Together For An Unknown Amount of Time”??? Maybe more like, “I’m steeling myself against his reoccurring gaslit filled rejections!” I personally think that this movie is autobiographical for Lili Horvát, and no one is going to persuade me otherwise.
Edited by: CY