Directed in 1973 by István Szabó 25 Firemans Street is a prime example of seventies New Hungarian cinema. One part theatrical realism, one part cinematic surrealism with a metaphors coming through the surface the film is an ensemble piece about people living in an apartment complex during and after World War II.
The film takes a somewhat cynical and tragic view of Hungarians who suffered through the pre-war years of the Hapburgs, the war years with the Nazis and the post war years with the communists. Typical daily life and familial struggles are interupted by each ensuing political fiasco.
The apartment building metaphorically stands for the country of Hungary. The wars and political turmoil are presented as a big wrecking ball that is always tearing down a nearby building to the point that it disrupts everyone's lives.
25 Firemans Street takes place entirely in one apartment building and has a lot of single camera takes that move from one character and one episode to the next thus giving it a theatrical feel. Yet the film is very cinematic with its impressive uses camera movement - by DP Sándor Sára -which includes dolly shots, pans, tracks and zooms.
The film is a true ensemble piece. There are only main characters but no central figure. One could say that the people together - or even the building itself - is the main character. The one character who shows up most frequently is name Maria (Lucyna Winnicka) a forty-something woman who is a fading beauty who never manages to get married because all the men in her life die in the wars.
25 Firemans Street has a bit too free flowing of a plot to really be involving; time seems to flow just as freely. Instead it is a cinematic marvel with good acting. If you like that sort of thing then give it a look. If you are looking for the Masterpiece Theatre treatment or Hollywood version then look elsewhere.