Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Movie with Abe: 1945

Directed by Ferenc Török
Released November 1, 2017

When a society goes through a change, be it noticeable or subtle, it is difficult to return to what was before. A way of being and doing things becomes ingrained within a community, and anyone who represents a challenge to that sense of normalcy can cause an immediate disruption, heralding fears of monumental change with nothing more than their existence. How that community responds is a sign of its ability to endure, whether it arduously refuses any type of evolution or presents a more welcoming front to a potentially inevitable temporary or permanent transformation.

In the summer of 1945 after the end of World War II, a small village in Hungary prepares for a festive occasion. The town clerk (Péter Rudolf) is about to see his son married. The arrival of two men spooks the clerk and the rest of the village, since it is clear that they are Jews. Fearful that they have been sent by the Jewish former residents of the town to reclaim their homes and property, the residents tread carefully, keeping their eyes on their visitors and acting as one to preserve their stable ways.

There is a disconcerting air to the manner in which the people of the town react to the presence of strangers in their midst. They speak generally, describing “two of them,” without specific mention of the obvious religious garb that identifies the men as observant Jews. The tone of this film is reminiscent of another recent black-and-white European film, “The White Ribbon,” which has a foreboding air where things feel much worse than the dialogue and actual events would make it seem. The residents tell themselves, aloud, that they are the rightful owners of that which was given to them when the Jews were forced to leave, and that this return must be an act of aggression.

This is a film that belongs to an important genre that examines European communities in which Jews lived prior to the Holocaust which have attempted to eradicate all traces of an element that they let be taken away, be it willfully or passively. This particular story plays out in slower, more pensive fashion than the Polish drama “Aftermath,” also distributed by Menemsha Films. The Jews barely appear in this story and speak even more rarely, with an instrumental version of the Kol Nidre service melody serving as a melancholy score befitting of the symbolic burial that they have come to the village to perform. This film is quiet and thought-provoking if less than entirely engaging.


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