Movies shot in black and white, especially in the modern era, are often described as “stark,” but there’s no other way to characterize the visuals in the marvelous Hungarian movie “1945.” The look of the film perfectly emblematizes the story. Set a few months after V-E Day, it takes place in a single summer afternoon in a small village. The gruff local notary and pharmacy owner (Péter Rudolf) is preparing for the wedding of his son (Bence Tasnádi) to the stunning beauty Kisrózsi (Dóra Sztarenki), who still has eyes for a burly returning soldier (Tamás Szabó Kimmel).
Into this tightknit cauldron of fear and wariness stride two mysterious Orthodox Jews, a bearded older man (Iván Angelusz) and his son (Marcell Nagy), both dressed in black and transporting a bulky trunk containing something that is only revealed at the end of the film. What brings these silent, grim-faced men to the village? The reigning theory is that they have returned to reclaim property stolen from them by some of the selfsame villagers who gave them up to the Nazis.
As the paranoia expands, the town’s central inhabitants are revealed in all their naked apprehension. It’s a good bet that the director had “High Noon” in mind when he made this film, but the comparison ends there. As a compact study of wartime guilt, the film has the look and feel of a waking nightmare. Grade: A- (This movie is not rated.)