1945 Hungary. Starring Peter Rudolf, Bence Tasnadi, Tamas Szabo Kimmel, Dora Sztarenki, Agi Szirtes, Jozsef Szarvas. Directed by Ferenc Torok. 91 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes, sex scene and coarse language). 2017.
1945 is too grandiose a title for this film. It actually covers only one day in the life of a Hungarian village, August 12, 1945, the surrender of the Nazis now three months old, the war still waging in Asia, the dropping of the atomic bombs.
At the beginning of the film, two Jewish men arrive by train at the village, bringing some boxes which are identified as dry goods and perfumes but actually contain various artefacts which are to be buried in the cemetery in memory of the Jews who were rounded up, taken to concentration camps and killed.
This is very disturbing for many of the people in the town because they had denounced the Jews, gained documents which gave them the rights to the houses and the shops and are occupying them and are fearful of having to return them.
There is a wedding in the town that day. It is between the son of the Town Clerk and a young woman who was previously fiance of one of the locals who went to fight in the war. The Town Clerk was responsible for a lot of the deals and is apprehensive with the return of the Jewish men. He has given the drugstore to his son who is to be married.
As the day progresses, the young fiance has a relationship with his former friend, now has a new girlfriend and wants to bypass the wedding. But the young son, appreciating what is happening, and critical of his father’s behaviour, decides to leave, to go to Budapest or to the United States.
A central character is the man who was persuaded to participate in the fraud, who is now a drinker, goes to confession to a rather unsympathetic priest who seems to be endorsing the stances the Town Clerk, the film indicating Catholic Church support of the anti-Semitism.
From the Jewish perspective, the two men go through the burial process, a challenge at the gate of the cemetery by the Town Clerk but say they have come in peace and shake hands with him. To the relief of the townspeople, they leave and go to the train along with the Town Clerk’s son.
As suggested, something of an examination of conscience for the Hungarian people – and a criticism at the time of the film’s release because of the Hungarian hostility to admitting asylum seekers from Syria.
Jewish International Festival Released March 29th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.