Review: Stark WWII drama ‘1945’ takes on war’s effects

Hungary-set drama unfolds in the days following WWII’s end

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

A town wracked with guilt must come to terms with the horrors of its war atrocities in “1945,” a somber drama set in the immediate aftermath of WWII.

Iván Angelus, left, and Marcell Nagy play two Jews who startle a small village in post World War II Hungary in “1945.”

Two Orthodox Jews arrive in a small Hungarian village in the days following the war’s end, transporting with them a pair of wooden boxes labeled as cosmetics.

What is their purpose? The townspeople work themselves into a panic: Are the strangers there to collect the possessions taken from the Jewish families that formerly occupied the town? Are they there to settle a score? Their presence is enough to put the town into a tizzy, some drinking away their pain, others furiously stashing their wares out of sight. The two strangers, slowly making their way across town by foot, aided by a horse-drawn carriage, don’t have to do or say anything. The heavy conscience of the townsfolk creates its own form of mental chaos.

“1945” is directed by Budapest-born Ferenc Török, and its lovely black-and-white photography is stark and effective. Less effective is a subplot about a wedding unfolding in town, involving a bride-to-be (Dora Sztarenki) with eyes for a man other than her fiance. The film is much better when focusing on the anguish over the presence of the Orthodox Jews and the mystery of their intentions.

There are elements of “1945” that recall a classic Western structure, and there’s a Quentin Tarantino version of the movie where the strangers’ cases are filled with ammo and everything builds to a huge shootout. This is not that movie. Instead, “1945” relies on the power of suggestion and the stinging pain of remorse that lasts a lifetime.

(313) 222-2284



Not rated, but adult situations

Running time: 91 minutes