Sounding the first note in a mesmerizing, nearly wordless pastoral symphony, the idiosyncratic debut feature of Hungarian director György Pálfi opens with an extreme close-up on the scales of a snake, each moving in harmonious union, then pulls back to reveal the community below. The choice of animal is telling, because its movements epitomize Hukkle's precise, mechanical rhythms, and its Eden-like menace suggests that nothing is quite as idyllic as it seems. Other than a late wedding song that occasions the first and only appearance of subtitles, the humans on display are reduced entirely to action, with scant exchanges recorded as foreign, indecipherable murmurs. As a bravura display of film technique, Hukkle calls to mind everything from Jacques Perrin's obsessive nature documentary Winged Migration to David Lynch's brooding soundscapes to the whirligig contraptions of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. Though ultimately too oblique to transcend its sources, the film marks a refreshing, back-to-basics return to the medium's most elemental tools, isolating specific sights and sounds with an almost musical command of their effects. By looking away for a few seconds, it's possible to miss the half-sketched murder mystery that Pálfi submits for a plot: one incidental shot of a corpse under murky waters, and a few more of a police detective examining pictures, looking for the body, and casually pausing for a roadside leak. But the death mostly serves to darken the tone of Pálfi's rapturous mood piece, which spends much of its 75 minutes dissecting the minute processes that drive everyday life. The ordinary becomes abstract as Pálfi's camera gets inside the syncopated machinery at a textile mill, considers the bubbles in a glass of vodka like a molecular structure, and plumbs below the surface to watch a mole tunnel underground. Humans and the natural world have some whimsical interactions, as a ladybug crawls up a headphone cord, or a housecat licks leftovers off a child's fingers, but people mostly take their place at the top of the food chain. In one sequence, a combine harvests grain, which is processed and packaged into flour and then dumped into a chicken casserole a cut later; in another, fish swallows frog before, man swallows fish. These cycles of life and death don't add up to anything of greater consequence, a fact that the film's title (meaning "hiccup," for an old man whose blurps keep time like a drummer) freely confesses. More than a slight, pleasant oddity, Hukkle shows Pálfi's keen attunement to the sensual possibilities, both in nature and in cinema.