1945 - Tuesday 22nd October 7.30pm at St Mary's
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90 mins
Director Ferenc Torok
Starring Péter Rudolf, Bence Tasnádi, Tamás Szabó Kimmel
Cert PG


In Ferec Torok’s skilled drama, celebrations in a Hungarian hamlet are marred by spreading rumours of infidelity, drug addiction and betrayal

This sombre, accomplished but somewhat heavy-handed work by writer-director Ferenc Torok unfolds on a single August day in the year of the title, only hours before the end of the second world war.

Everyone in the small Hungarian village where the story takes place knows the fighting is practically over. It’s time to celebrate with a slap-up spread for the wedding of Arpad (Bence Tasnadi), the passive son of the local magistrate (Peter Rudolf), and fetching peasant lass Kisrozsi (Dóra Sztarenki). But this supposedly happy day is marred by secrets spreading through the hamlet like a dormant virus, including infidelities, drug addiction and horrific betrayals.

Symptoms surface when two Jews, a father (Iván Angelus) and son (Marcell Nagy), show up in town with a cart, haunted expressions and a couple of small, mysterious wooden boxes. Word spreads that they’re here to sell perfume or other items. Or maybe they’ve come to reclaim the property they left behind when all the village’s Jews were rounded up and taken away by the Nazis to face a fate the locals could guess.

As if following some unwritten edict that after the Holocaust there can be no more colour, the cinematography is all black, white and shades of bleak, providing a cooling counterpoint to the high summer setting. Formally, this isn’t quite as audacious as, say, Son of Saul, another Hungarian-made exploration of guilt that used a tight aspect ratio and shallow focus to discombobulate and disorient the viewer.

But, like the latter, this does play with sound design in an interesting way, with odd noises such as the sound of snipping shears or achugging train creating a foreboding atmosphere. Composer Tibor Szemzo’s gloomy, string-laden score is rather less delicate and punches every emotional note like jackhammer.

Meanwhile, the script’s twists are a little predictable and some might query the way the Jewish characters are essentially noble ciphers. But, given the rise of the far right in Hungary at the moment, this is a timely tussle with a nation’s collective sense of shame.

Leslie Felperin, The Guardian


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