In a small Hungarian town in August, 1945, two men dressed in black step off a train with two crates of cargo. They’re headed to town, and their presence is troubling the locals, who are unaware of what their intentions are. It sounds a little like a Western, and while 1945 certainly looks and feels like a film right out of that genre, it’s actually something very different. The men in black are Orthodox Jews, heading into a Hungarian town where every Jewish person has already been forcibly taken. This is why the townspeople are uncomfortable. As they prepare for the wedding of the town clerk’s son, news of the two men sends many of the residents into a panic. As they get closer to town, dark secrets slowly come to light, and memories of what happened start to tear at the sanity of many townspeople.
Director Ferenc Török delivers a slow building and tense film with 1945. While it’s initially a little confusing as to why anybody would care about two Jewish men carrying trunks of perfume and soap, we start to see little by little where all the fear is coming from. Guilt, greed, and karma collide to tear apart the tiny Hungarian town as the two Jews go about their business wordlessly.
If you give the film the time, you’ll eventually find yourself wrapped up in the events, and while the initial story of the film becomes secondary to the arrival of the two Jewish men, it’s for the better. The comparison to the Western genre also works well throughout, especially towards the middle of the film when the men arrive in the town square. You’ll be expecting a shootout, and in a way, that’s what you get. It just doesn’t involve pistols at high noon. There’s a mental shootout happening, and the Jewish men certainly have the upper hand.