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12 August 1945, 11 AM. Two mysterious strangers dressed in black appear at the railway station of a Hungarian village. In the shadow of Russian occupation, the people of the village are preparing for the wedding of the son of the clerk, but the bride's former fiance returns from captivity. Within a few hours, everything changes. Secrets, sins, reckoning, love, betrayal, confrontation.Written by
Compelling, understated drama from Hungary about the aftermath of the Holocaust in one small village
This subtitled Hungarian drama is highly reminiscent of one of Spencer Tracy's Oscar-nominated outings, Bad Day at Black Rock. When a stranger comes to a small town, people start assuming he's got a worrisome agenda, and they start scrambling to cover their guilty secrets. In this case, the small town is in post-war Hungary. Two Jewish men get off a train, carrying boxes, and trekking through the village. No one knows why they've come, and many have reasons to fear a return of the Jews who used to live there, before their properties were confiscated and redistributed when the Nazis sent them to the camps.
One man is guilt-ridden over his role in the incarceration of former friends. Others are hell-bent on keeping whatever they obtained, rather than having those former neighbors or their relatives recoup what was taken.
Like the Tracy film, this one is shot in black-and-white, and presented tersely, leaving room for viewers to fill in the spaces between the lines and actions. The absence of color, which I usually dislike, seems appropriate here, linking it to familiar newsreel and fictional depictions of the era. It also highlights the bleakness of life in the aftermath of all the horrors World War II wrought throughout Europe, on the battlefields and beyond. Living with one's inner demons can exact a toll on collaborators, as well as combatants.
There's not much action, and no archival footage. This one's all about the residents, the choices they made, and the varied consequences therefrom. A serious film for serious viewers. Although the specifics of the plot are rooted in the Holocaust and its after-effects, the responsibility and accountability of individuals in the midst of such political tides is a timeless and vital theme.
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