A powerful new film from Hungary joins the list of distinguished films that explore the aftermath of the Holocaust. “1945” has been directed by Ferenc Töröc, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gábor T. Szántó, author of the short story “The Homecoming” on which the film is based. In some ways “1945” is in the vein of an American western. Two men arrive in a town and their presence sets off a chain of tense events producing a crisis.
In this case the men are an Orthodox Jew and his grown son. They arrive at the train station of a Hungarian village and the word gets out leading to fears among the population. Why? When Jews from the town were sent off to the death camps, local individuals seized their property and there are fears that the mysterious newcomers are survivors who have arrived to claim what rightfully belongs to them.
To the director’s credit, a haunting atmosphere pervades, as the two Jews are seen walking slowly along a road toward their presumed goal. In town there are preparations for a wedding. The groom is the son of the villainous town clerk who wants to protect his acquired property. The bride is really in love with another but is getting married for presumed security. All is at the point of being disrupted.
What occurs is thoroughly engrossing as we watch the village consumed with fears of retribution. What we ultimately find is extremely moving. The mission of the newcomers involves going to a cemetery with the large box that they are carrying. Perhaps a body to be buried? Something else? I don’t want to spoil the film by revealing what happens.
But rest assured that “1945” is a deeply moving take on loss and symbolic of the persecution of the Jews and the guilt that should be stirred among the callous who greedily profited by the Holocaust. The black and white cinematography sets an impressive period tone, the pace of the 90-minute film moves steadily toward the climax. Excellent cast members play the various roles, which adds to the authenticity.
The arc of the film is letter perfect, from the arrival of the two Jews to their ultimate departure after the mission has been accomplished—train station to train station, again reminiscent of a western. This is a unique film that clearly is among the year’s best and not to be missed. It is 2017 but “1945” can make one feel as if living in that year and in this terrified Hungarian town that has much for which to atone. A Menemsha Films release. Reviewed October 30, 2017.