Why do people confess to crimes years after the fact? Is it the guilt that gnaws away at their core until they can no longer live with themselves? While clearly not fun to watch, 1945 is a fascinating portrayal of guilt for those responsible for, and who benefited from, ghastly atrocities during World War II. Like the photo above, it is appropriately filmed in black-and-white, in my opinion to signify that the decisions to betray were not morally ambiguous ones, but rather wrong. Period. Shown locally at the Mariemont, this is a movie that few will see. It is a true art film, powerful, compelling but not made for the masses. You have to tolerate subtitles for this one, but it is worth the effort.
It is 1945 Hungary, a few months after V-E day and the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have just fallen. Occupied by Russian soldiers, two Jewish men disembark from a train with two large trunks. Immediately, the concern of certain villagers is that they, and others, are returning to reclaim what was taken from them during the war. What about those who are now in houses, running businesses, and/or holding possessions of the displaced Jews? Were some of them responsible for the deportation? Will their complicity be discovered?
Given that this is a Hungarian movie with Hungarian actors, you will not likely recognize any of the names. Needless to say, the lack of foreign recognition does not make them any less professional. From the town clerk (more of a mayor/magistrate), to his family and future daughter-in-law, to the two gentlemen shown above, to the town drunk, the emotions are visible and raw. For example, the Jews have almost no dialogue but their pain is unmistakable. The above photo gives a sense of what you will feel.
To be fair, one would like more background about the two visitors and others taken by the Nazis. It would be nice to have a clearer picture of the involvement of the entire village. Rather, the director takes us on a slow tease, dribbling out details very slowly and sparsely. Of course, that method heightens the dread that you know is sure to come. The resolution is not as nice and tidy as you might like, but this is a movie to cause one to think, not an action-packed thriller. Sometimes, different is good. This was a worthwhile drive on a stormy Tuesday afternoon.