From Hungary, a testament to the power of love
An obscure Hungarian film about a Jewish couple who adopt a Christian boy in order to outfox Hitler's ''final solution,'' may prove to be the ''sleeper'' of next week's Oscar ceremonies. Ironically, the film was funded in part by West German television.
The Revolt of Job, co-directed and co-written by Imre Gyongyossy and Barna Kabay, has been chosen by the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the official Hungarian entry for the Best Foreign Film award, even though for some time Hungarian government officials tried to prevent its international distribution because they felt it did not give a positive picture of Hungary in 1943.
It was not chosen by officials to be part of the February Hungarian Film Week in Budapest. So directors screened it privately for foreign critics who then demanded that the government allow it to be seen by the world.
I have attended a screening of the film in New York and talked to the directors who are in the United States to promote the film, scheduled to open here March 28 and throughout the country during the first week of April. Not since Rene Clement's ''Forbidden Games'' in 1952, have I been as moved by any film.
Like ''Games,'' this film concerns a youngster; in this case it is a Christian boy who is adopted from an orphanage by an aging Jewish couple in a small agricultural community in Hungary. They have heard of the Nazi concentration camps, and in the tradition of their Jewish faith, decide to pass on their heritage of love for the Messiah through a little human being whom they believe has a good chance to survive the period. Naturally, deep feelings of affection develop between the couple and the boy, played by a delightful Hungarian nonprofessional named Gabor Feher.
Director/writer Gyongyossy told me that the basic story is true, that he had been adopted by a Jewish couple during the war for just such reasons. He says that he made the film as an hommage to 2 m's are cq them as well as to the 565, 000 out of a total of 825,000 Hungarian Jews who perished during the Holocaust.
Ingmar Bergman's ''Fanny and Alexander'' is generally acknowledged to be the favorite for the Best Foreign Film Award. But, since Bergman is also nominated for the Best Director award, it is deemed possible by insiders that academy members might, after seeing ''Job,'' decide to reward this little film with the Best Foreign Film award while they give recognition to Bergman with the Best Director award.
Produced for only $600,000, more than 90 percent of ''The Revolt of Job,'' was shot with a hand-held camera. The distributor, Teleculture, has only had a few screenings of the film and reports that the emotional response to it is ''tremendous,'' with many in the audience sobbing uncontrollably at the end. Richard Brown, who
teaches a widely respected film course at the New School for Social Research, told me that he has shown the film at two of his classes and has never seen such a strong response to any film he has ever shown. People semed to want to stand up and give testimony about the value of the experience of seeing the film.
A representative of Teleculture reports that at least one Jewish organization has offered to help promote the picture, but neither the distributor nor the directors feel that it is a ''Jewish'' picture.
Says co-director Gyongyossy: ''It is a film about everybody, not just Jews, although I did want to show traditional Jewish life in Hungarian agricultural communities.''
Adds co-director Kabay: ''Our film is about man's ability to resist the destructive powers that sometimes rise among us. It is about the indestructibility of love.''