Nothing like Netflix. I just joined; I‘ll be catching up on films I missed and will do lots of knitting in the process.
British actor Ralph Fiennes plays three characters: the grandfather, Ignatz Sonnenschein; the father, Adam Sors; and the grandson, Ivan Sors. Sonnenschein means sunshine in German; Sors means fate in Hungarian.
Thanks to the secret recipe for liquor inherited from Great-Grandfather Emmanuel, the family enjoys the best of Budapest society: lavish parties, a stately home, high fashion, and sumptuous food. Ignatz studies law abroad, returns, and lands a prominent post with the government.
Meanwhile, the location of the battered notebook containing the recipe for the liquor eludes everyone.
His son, Adam becomes an Olympic fencer. To represent the national team, he must appease anti-Semitism. He changes his name to Sors and converts to Catholicism. Neither winning for the country nor conversion protects him from the Nazis; he’s killed in a concentration camp. (This character is apparently based on a real person, Hungarian Olympian Attila Petschauer)
His son, Ivan, witnesses his father’s murder, then returns to the disheveled family home, finding grandmother, who survived the war in hiding, living in one room.
Sent to prison, he returns three years later, distraught that he lost his great-grandfather’s pocket watch. His grandmother consoles him: material things- whether an heirloom watch or a family recipe- is not important. ‘
After her death, he cleans out the house, and reclaims his family name, presumably accepting his lost heritage.
Three hours of romance, betrayal, power, history, and ultimately; family. The movie stayed with me for hours into days. Each generation struggled with its identity, letting go of past traditions to fight anti-Semitism by assimilating into Hungarian culture. When Ivan retakes his family name, he’s walking down a street, smiling. Does this mean he’s returning to the religion as well?
I thought of my own family history. My father’s parents, Eastern European immigrants, assimilated to the culture they saw as American. What they brought with them they instilled in my father: a strong work ethic, a belief in justice, a commitment to family and others. We celebrated American and Jewish holidays.
I see myself as secular: or as we say jokingly, “ a la carte”- practicing what I wish, picking and choosing what and how I observe.
Thankfully there’s room in this country for us to do so. Religious tolerance is a basic tenet of our nation. Let it continue.
(special thanks to Leah in http://leahsthoughts.com/ for suggesting this film.)