A Christian town faces its sins in post-war Hungary in “1945”.

 

Written and directed by Ferenc Török, based on the short story “Homecoming” by Gábor T. Szántó, “1945” is a movie set in an era where “it appears that there is still a chance of setting forth on a sunny path to the future at the same time as exploring a year the dark memory of which still lives on among us,” the producer says. 

The title of the short story that inspired the film was, of course, ironic. As the guests’ wagon moved silently through the town, up and down streets, we hear virtually nothing from the mysterious visitors, only “What do they want?” whispered from one townsman to another, especially to the town clerk, who knows only too well what they want.

As the townspeople gather to celebrate a wedding, the would-be groom, who has been aware that his bride-to-be really loves another man, confronts her: He is leaving town; he knows of the other relationship. Together they must skip the wedding and flee together. She refuses; he goes.

The town drunk knows that the Jews are the real owners of the property, and that he was complicit the year before in identifying the Jews as the Nazis rounded them up. Now his conscience tells him that all must be restored to the original owners. Soaked in brandy he seeks out the parish priest to make his confession. The priest, a pompous fat man, is too busy decorating the church for the wedding to hear the confession properly, but he half-listens, lets the drunk stammer his sins, and kicks him out. The town clerk’s wife, who spends much time in bed, castigates her husband for his irresponsible behavior, for “murdering” the Jews by revealing individuals to the Nazis.

The central question of the film becomes whether the Jews will be able to claim what is rightfully theirs and whether the cross that appeared in the background earlier in the film will have any meaning for the town which is considered Christian.

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Source: America – The Jesuit Review.

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