"Very few people knew of the Loscei family, and those with knowledge refused to be identified," Meade says. But the old footage was too bizarre to let lie.
Mr. Locsei was somehow involved in the deportation of Jews during World War II. It's deliberately unclear whose side he was on; a scene in which he and coworkers gleefully inspect jewelry makes you wonder where the owners went. There's something deeply troubling about Locsei, and the hypnotic thing about Vakvagany is that Meade doesn't try to explain him.
After the Locseis have children, things get even weirder. The mother, a shapely fashion plate in earlier footage, is now large and unkempt. The parents insist that their infant son be photographed nude. When the boy is a little older, the mother holds his penis while he urinates. The parents have seemingly flipped and are filming for reasons too twisted to contemplate.
Meade seasons the old clips with "expert" testimony. Author James Ellroy hints that it may be xenophobic to question the parents' motives. Psychiatrist Dr. Roy Menninger believes we're seeing terrible secrets that families never document. Filmmaker Stan Brakhage (who opens the film by saying, "It won't ruin the movie-viewing if you think while you watch") says home movies are a territory of filmmaking that derives from a family's need to document its affections.
When Meade finally meets the adult Locsei children, the son is mentally impaired and picking up trash in the streets of Budapest; his younger sister is a recluse living in filth among a horde of cats. Though there is something guileless and humorous about the son, Meade's camera stays on him too long; he becomes a pathetic oaf. And the camera keeps rolling on the sister despite her insistence that he stop.
"I'm glad I had the camera, because it gave me emotional distance," Meade says, "yet I don't know if I should have gone that far. You think of Tod Browning's Freaks: When does it stop being a regular film and become something else?"