Film: 1945 (2017)

May 9, 2017 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  Drama

Synopsis: The arrival of two strangers in a post-WWII Hungarian village exposes a dark secret that tears the community apart.

Special Features:  n/a




Ferenc Török’s drama unravels as a minimalist thriller, as a train brings two strangers into a postwar Hungarian train station bearing a set of slim wooden boxes. Soviet soldiers roam around town rather aimlessly, but the sight of the silent visitors sends fear throughout town.

Like a Morse Code message being electrically relayed person-to-person, high and low members of the town are alerted of the Jewish strangers, heading into town as they escort on foot the boxes being ferried by a horse-drawn lorry.  Török intercuts their inevitable arrival between increasingly tense scenes in which István Szentes’s (Peter Rudolf) perfect day is systematically ruined: his weak-willed son Árpád (Bence Tasnádi) is set to wed Kisrózsi (Dóra Sztarenki) in an arrangement that will sever her passionate romance with Jansci (Tamás Szabó Kimmel), a more rebellious lad; and his wife Anna (Eszter Nagy-Kálózy) ultimately aides in the day’s calamity after sobering up from a habitual drug-induced state.

As Czech director Jan Kadar dramatized in vicious satirical drama The Shop onMain Street (1965), the arrival of Fascists in a small town led to Jewish businesses being appropriated by locals, who ‘managed’ shops and elegant homes while their rightful owners were ultimately carted off to the death camps. Although set in Hungary, Török’s film doesn’t focus on horrors, but deceit and lies, and their caustic nature which breaks apart a cover István’s managed to maintain during the war.

Suspicions raise fears of reclamation – Are the two men emissaries or spies checking to see who’s remained faithful to the agreements between locals and Jewish owners? – and István finds not all participants of his scheme have been able to expunge guilt. As he’s eventually told face-to-face, the whole town knows the degree to which he wrangled a fine house and local drugstore from the Pollok family, so the question director Török poses is whether the pair’s arrival is for justice, or something more simple, given their arrival doesn’t come with any police escort.

By keeping the mystery vague and focusing on the emergence of the town’s Big Lie, Török has a tough challenge in building and offering plot, plus balancing details of the men with the various storylines that add background to the town’s major characters. Tibor Szemző’s score is more successful in conveying ambient fragments of thematic material that occasionally blend into something musically palpable, and 1945’s main problem is the thin depth of the characters and István himself, who’s broadly portrayed as a cigar-chomping, booze-guzzling overload.

The film’s strongest material lies in the motifs of corruption that corrode almost every citizen. Teenage daughters nervously shake, wives take drugs, brides cheat on their fiancés, and the men seek refuge by almost pickling themselves in caustic brandy by the bottle.

The filmmakers convey history through impressions, and the downside for audiences that is without familiarity of actual events, aspects of the town’s actions and postwar state are fuzzy, especially the Soviet soldiers who really don’t do anything except ride around town in a Jeep and catcall women.

Elemér Ragályi’s B&W cinematography is very stark and clean and features some striking compositions, and the location and production design and beautifully evocative of a picturesque, insular village that resembles a generic European rural town, especially the type that blends into the natural surroundings and hides potential secrets known only to a select few.

It’s a modest production that offers an eerie glimpse into the central lifespan of a lie after its been seeded, and nears the end of its power.

An interview with director Ferenc Török (Hungarian only) is available on YouTube.



© 2017 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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