Film Review: 1945

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1945
Director: Ferenc Török

Menemsha Films
In theaters: 05.25

1945 is, in many ways, a perfect little film—one of the rare great stories in which nothing really happens, yet tension constantly builds. Based on a short story written by Gabor T. Szanto, it’s an intimate drama with the entirety of the film taking place over the course of a few hours in the late summer of 1945 in a small Hungarian village. It has the look of a Western, the atmosphere of a murder mystery and the tension of a thriller. Two strangers come to town, setting off a wave of unease throughout the town and exposing the secret crimes of its inhabitants. One of this film’s strongest elements is its subtlety. It doesn’t hit you over the head with its point; instead, it invites you to observe a series of events that, to anyone with any knowledge of Europe at the time, become increasingly obvious.

Another of 1945’s strong suits is the solid use of symbolism and the way it seems to look away from itself, mirroring the way the world seems to look away from history. The main plot, the wedding of the town clerk Istvan’s (Péter Rudolf) son Árpád (Bence Tasnádi), fades into the background as the subplot—the arrival of two Jewish men (Iván Angelusz and Marcell Nagy) and the town’s reaction to their appearance—unfolds. It perfectly captures the sense of paranoia and guilt in the town. The villagers, after betraying their neighbors to the occupying German forces, know how easily everything can be taken away, and now, with the approaching occupation of Soviet forces and the apparent return of the Jewish people, they fear retribution for their crimes.

With the recent rise of neo-Nazis and attempts to rewrite history and erase the blame of many countries complicit in the murders of their own citizens, 1945 is a timely and important reminder of the past and a rejection of the new narratives being told. –Lois Brady