Miklós Jancsó was born in the town of Vác, famous for its old prison and churches. Jancsó’s father was a Transylvanian, whereas his mother’s family came from Romania. Originally Jancsó wanted to become a stage director, but because there was no institution of higher education of this kind in Hungary, he studied law and also ethnography and art history at the University of Kolozsvár (now Cluj in Romania) and eventually gained a doctor-of-law degree in 1944.
The Nazi Germany occupied Hungary in 1944. The country was then overrun by the Red Army, and Jancsó spent some time as a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union. After working as an assistant lawyer and doing ethnological research in Transylvania, Jancsó entered the Budapest’s Academy of Dramatic and Film Art, graduating in 1951. His teachers included the famous film critic and screenwriter Béla Balázs (1884-1949).