Hungary in the postwar years was a challenging, transitional place: it’s a period rarely dealt with in cinema and certainly not with as much clarity, economy and nuance as Ferenc Török displays in the masterful 1945.
Török tackles a difficult subject with sensitivity: the sobering issue of how the Gentile population of Nazi-occupied countries behaved towards Jewish neighbours, and how they did or did not manage to come to terms with a history of betrayal.
When two black-clad men arrive at a country railway station, a classic western setup appears to be unfolding. But this is Soviet-occupied Hungary in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, and by their appearance the men are Orthodox Jews. As the two men make their way to town and word of their arrival spreads, there’s a growing panic amongst some of the more prominent townsfolk – especially town clerk István, whose son’s wedding is later that day…
With its monochrome splendour and striking soundtrack, morally compromised townspeople and its tick-tock narrative towards an unknown conclusion, 1945 bears comparison with Fred Zinnemann’s taut and masterful High Noon.
A tense, chilling, beautifully nuanced take on a difficult period in Hungarian history.