“Cleverly mounting tension”
A scorching hot day in August 1945. While the inhabitants of a provincial Hungarian village are getting ready for a wedding, a father and son, Orthodox Jews, arrive at the little local station. They rent a horse-drawn cart and, travelling in silence, transport two wooden crates.
A sense of unease settles on the village. What is in the crates and what do these people want? The villagers are struggling with a shared sense of guilt and these new arrivals revive dark secrets and memories best forgotten. Are these family members of deported Jewish villagers, and have they come to reclaim their property, which the villagers have appropriated? Panic ensues and the villagers take steps. We see how they feel increasingly trapped, how their guilt and shame bubble to the surface and eventually we learn who these Jewish people are and what they have come to do. All these things unfold gradually with cast-iron logic, and culminate in a denouement that is both inevitable and splendid.
Homecoming (1945) is highly successful. The plot is compelling from start to finish and the film has plenty to say about guilt, forgiveness, the abuse of power and greed. The glimpse of Hungarian village life, petty and involving liberal quantities of alcohol, is both amusing and credible.