In a loosely structured series of dreams, sexual fantasies, memories, premonitions, and surreal images, director István Szabó enters the minds of the residents of a Budapest apartment building set for destruction. 25 FIREMAN'S STREET is a creatively ambitious attempt to do nothing less than provide a visually emotive history of Hungary from the rule of the Hapsburgs to the aftermath of the Russian invasion in 1956. Each character--including a woman whose husband is dying, a young man who loves two women, and a soldier who fears he'll die in the war--is given a different cinematic feel, tied together by the absurdist dramatic influence of Eugene Ionesco, another Hungarian storyteller.
Unlike Dusan Makavejev in Yugoslavia, whose films such as WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM also deal with life under communism through the use of surreal fantasy, Szabó has the unique ability to connect character and personality to dreamy sequences that might otherwise become meaninglessly ethereal. This is not history writ large with great battle scenes and thousands of extras; rather it is an attempt to elucidate that picture not by telling a lot of individual stories in the historical sense but by going within those stories to show people's unfulfilled hopes, nightmares, and memories. The result is a moving, sometimes haunting film that takes the viewer within the psyche of the Hungarian people.
In István Szabó's 25 FIREMAN'S STREET, the residents of an old Hungarian house about to be demolished share collective dreams, memories, and nightmares.