Some of the best films about war take place after the war has ended. The most famous American examples are The Best Years of Our Lives, which won seven Academy Awards in 1947, including Best Picture, and Born on the Fourth of July, which won two Oscars in 1990. Among those from other countries are Belvedere from Bosnia and Herzegovina, On the Other Side from Croatia, The Fencer from Finland, Reseba: The Dark Wind from Iraq, Waltz with Bashir from Israel, Home Sweet Home from Kosovo, NN from Peru, Ida from Poland, The Miner from Slovenia, Ayla: The Daughter of War from Turkey and 10 Days Before the Wedding from Yemen.
Those Who Remained (Akik maradta) from Hungary is a moving addition to this genre. This is a sensitive, almost delicate, tale of two Jews in Budapest who have lost their families in the Holocaust. It begins in 1948 when Aldó (Károly Hajduk), a 42-year-old gynecologist, takes on a new patient, 16-year-old Klára (Abigél Szőke). Both of them have lost all the members of their immediate families. Klára is in denial. She believes that her parents will eventually return, and she continues to write letters to them. Aldó is under no such delusions. He knows that his wife and their two sons died in the concentration camps. One of the most poignant scenes comes when Aldó shows Klára the family photos that he has preserved, even though he, himself, cannot look at them.
Aldó assumes the role of Klára’s guardian and foster father, and she moves into his apartment. Meanwhile, the Communist Party has taken power in Hungary, and the restrictions on the citizens of Budapest are drastically restricted. Inevitably, suspicions arise about the relationship between Klára and Aldó. A friend of Aldó’s confesses that he has joined the Communist Party and that he has been assigned the job of spying on the pair. In fact, as close as Aldó and Klára have become, what they are really missing and hope to find in each other is not sex, but the warmth of having a family.
Based on the novel by Zsuzsa F. Várkonyi and directed by Barnabás Tóth, Those Who Remained is a reminder that although it is a blessing to survive when others have died, it is sometimes true that, in the words of Klára, “It’s harder for us than those who left.”