A Hdember (The Bridgeman) (2002)

 

 

 

Director:     Gza Beremnyi.

Starring:     Kroly Eperjes (Count Istvn Szchenyi),  Irina Latchina (Crescence),  Ervin Nagy (Lajos Kossuth),  Can Togay (Lajos Batthynyi),  Gyrgy Cserhalmi (Mikls Wesselnyi),  Marius Bodochi (Karl Clam-Martinitz),   Ivn Darvas (Metternich),  Adl Kovts (Caroline Mead),  Sndor Gspr (Pl Szchenyi),  Tibor Gspr (Lajos Szchenyi),  Dezs Garas (Felsenthal),  Attila Kaszs (Necosek),  Lszl Sink (Count Zichy),  Pter Haumann (Dr. Coenget),  Jzsef Szarvas (Mihly Kiss). 

story of Istvan Szechenyi, the nineteenth-century Hungarian revolutionary
 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

 

In the first half of the 19th century, Hungary was part of the Habsburg Monarchy. A carriage is coming.

Dobling Insane Asylum near Vienna, September 7, 1848.

 

They are bringing in Count Istvn Szchenyi, the "Greatest Hungarian". Another man says he is the head minister of the rebels. The Count himself keeps saying defamatory things such as: "Im the anti-Christ."; "Im the cause of everything."; "Im the destroyer of Hungary."; "Im Ariman, beast of the Apocalypse." The Count sheds a tear.

 

Flashback. The future Count Istvn Szchenyi is christened. A serf has the future count kiss the Austrian Emperors hand.

Flashback. A man on horseback, Captain Karl Clam-Martinitz, calls for Captain Istvn Szchenyi. There also is Stefferl, the younger brother of Istvn. He is a comely rogue it is said. A woman mentions that he won the Battle of Leipzig for Field Marshal Schwarzenberg. He also led the Swedish Crown Princes charge against Napoleon.

 

The white-haired Count Zichy arrives with his new wife, the beautiful Crescence, who now has charge of his seven children. Counts Louis and Paul are introduced to the new arrivals. When Istvn sees Crescence he is absolutely astonished at her beauty.

Istvn complains to a small audience that Hungary does not have one permanent bridge. He then presents a new invention, the toilet. While he speaks, a woman dressed all in black rides hard to see Istvn, who is now demonstrating a gas generator from Great Britain. Count Paul forces Caroline back as she tries to enter to confront Istvn. Caroline still barges in and tries to strike Istvn in the face with her riding crop. She fails in this. Caroline calls Istvn a liar and a hypocrite. Since she cant hit Istvn, she takes out her anger on the mans model of his proposed bridge to unite Buda and Pest. She shouts: "Empty promises!" and then faints.

 

Riding with Captain Karl, Istvn tells him that he wants to remain single. So his friend asks for the woman he is currently seeing. Istvn answers: "Fine!"

Metternich is not happy about some of Istvns remarks, such as that the Habsburg Monarchy has only a hundred years left and its province will achieve complete independence. Therefore he promotes Istvns friend Captain Karl to the rank of major, while keeping Istvn at his current rank of Captain. Metternich suggests that Major Karl select better friends.

During a deer hunt, Caroline hides in some bushes. Istvn finds her and demands that she return his letters to her. Caroline refuses. Caroline is married to one of his brothers and had an affair with Istvn. Caroline leaves. While riding back she starts bleeding from the mouth. She falls off her horse.

Istvn congratulates Count Zichy on his appointment as Court Advisor. He then takes his leave, as His Majesty has called for him. He speaks with Crescence who tells him: "Please dont torment me. Please dont be so cruel." Istvn leaves and Crescene cries.

His Majesty asks Istvn where are his wounds. Istvn tells him he has a scar across the back, a bullet wound on the side and a stab wound in the chest. His Majesty takes note but is more concerned about another matter. He tells Istvn: "Your choice: vanity or loyalty."

Crescence tells her husband about her confrontation with Istvn. Count Zichy is upset because she begged the man. He accuses her of not loving him because of his older age. Crescence disputes this claim.

On military maneuvers, Istvn speaks with his major. He has to buy horses for his unit from the estate of Baron Mikls Wessenyi. The Baron wont sell his horse Dali to Istvn, but he will give him the horse to ride so he can learn first hand how great a horse is Dali.

Bratislava, 1825. Istvn talks with Metternich, who tells the Hungarian that the Emperor hasnt called for a Hungarian Parliament session in 13 years. Metternich then tells Istvn that Baron Mikls Wessenyi should understand that his honor and future depends on the Habsburgs. And Metternich wants to know of any possible nationalist outbreaks from the Hungarians.

In the Chamber, Istvn sits with Baron Wessenyi. In the gallery he sees Crescence. Istvn rises to make a statement and does so, but in the forbidden Hungarian language. Then Baron Wessenyi jumps up and makes a very nationalist speech for Hungary in Hungarian. Mitternich is so angry that he leaves the Chamber. Istvn makes an offering. He will give one years earnings from all his estates for the propagation of the Hungarian language and the establishment of a Hungarian Learned Society. Crescence runs out of the Chamber. Many of the Hungarians tap their feet on the floor in support of the outburst.

Istvn visits with Metternich, who is very mad at him. The Hungarian tells Metternich that he wants to build a bridge. And if he is to be of any help to his nation, he must abandon his military career. So, he requests to be relieved of his command. Outside again, the Hungarians grab Istvn and lift him onto their shoulders. They declare him a national hero.

There is a big celebration. One of the guests asks wheres Istvn. Actually, hes out chasing after Crescence. He declares his love to her. And surprise, surprise, she says she loves him too. But she also says that they will love each other, but they may never touch one another. Istvn agrees.

England 1832. In England Istvn rides the locomotive Comet out of Dover. With him is Baron Wessenyi. They travel to see Thierney Clark, the engineer. Istvn tells him that he wants to build a bridge that will symbolize the future. They talk awhile and then Istvn says that the commission is his.

Istvn speaks again with Crescence. They go to a get-together where they see another Hungarian independence seeker, Lajos Kossuth, who is a bit of a fire-brand. The virulence of his talk upsets Crescence and she leaves. Outside, the crowd shouts: "Long live the founder of the Learned Society!" Kossuth says that he too is a big fan of Istvn.

Metternichs aides tell him about the latest political moves of Istvn. The talk is about independence from Vienna. And it is said that there is a secret weapons reserve in London.

Baron Wessenyi accuses of the government of infringing on his freedom of speech. They call him a traitor. He gets a big applause for his remarks. There is a lot of support for the Baron. Meanwhile, Kossuth has asked for an independent Hungarian press.

The now Colonel Karl Clam-Martinitz tells the Baron that his inflammatory speeches will no longer be tolerated. He then proceeds to challenge the Baron to a duel.

Count Zichy dies. Istvn attends the funeral. He is very upset when Crescences mother tells him that her daughter does not want to see him. He leaves while Crescence cries.

Kossuth will not be accepted as a member of an important political organization. They see him as a subversive.

Another big supporter of Hungarian independence is Lajos Batthynyi. The Hungarian patriot speaks with Istvn and accuses him of only wanting to build his bridge. Istvn refers to his critic as an "asshole".

Baron Wessenyi and Colonel Karl meet for their duel. They fight with swords. Wessenyi wins when he slashes across the face of the Colonel. This leaves a nasty scar on the Colonels face. Wessenyi is promptly arrested for dueling.

Istvn asks Metternich why he arrested Baron Wessenyi and Kossuth. Mitternich says congratulations to Istvn. He is now the Royal Commissioner of Transportation. He adds that he is now a Secret Counselor. Now he can push through his favorite projects including his bridge. Istvn accepts but adds: "Your government is so unpopular that if you support the bridge, the Hungarians will oppose it." So for now they will remain quiet about Istvns new position.

Lower Danube. Istvn is very ill on a boat on the Danube. He has a high fever and the shakes. He complains that Cresence has left him. But his advisor tells him that it is very important that he not be guarantied. Their opponents dont want the Danube opened up, so they will try to

quarantine Istvn.

The Emperor is dead! The officials who want to quarantine Istvn dont like him because he incites the peasantry. But Istvn pretends he is well and he is not quarantined.

Istvn stands outside looking up at Crescence looking out of a window. She comes out to see him and he asks her to marry him. She is very pleased.

Istvn and Crescence marry. Just a few people are in attendance.

Pest-Buda, 1839. They are building Istvns dream bridge.

1840. German Theatre in Pest. The talk is that Crescence is unwell after the birth of her child. News arrives that Kossuth has been freed. A cheer goes up for the leader. Kossuth enters with a pretty woman on his arm. The people and Kossuth wait for Istvn to acknowledge Kossuth. The Austrian national anthem is played. Kossuth walks out. The audience demands that the orchestra play a Hungarian tune. Istvn tells the audience to calm down and one audience member shouts back: "Istvn Szchenyi youve lost the confidence of the people." Then a big fracas breaks out in the audience. Istvn faints at the sight of such discord.

Pest. February 1848. Lajos Batthynyi comes to see Istvn who is in bed. There is news of a revolution in Paris. He says now Kossuth has developed a rabid bite and that they cant let him become a dictator. Istvn says he will get Metternich to send a letter of apology for all their grievances caused to Hungary and then Kossuth will be isolated and forgotten. Lajos tells Istvn that he must come to Bratislava.

Bratislava. March 1848. Kossuth wants to cut all ties with Austria. Istvn stomps into the Chamber and gets booed by the assembled. Kossuth shouts that he has a letter from Vienna dealing with the actions of Istvn. Two representatives held secret negotiations with Metternich. And who was behind this conspiracy, he asks. Its none other than Istvn himself. Outside Lajos Batthynyi says that Kossuth is right. They will make Istvn a minister in an independent Hungarian government. Batthynyi will be the Prime Minister. Istvn walks away.

Istvn asks Vienna for a lot of power. Metternich comments: "I cant believe that Istvn wants to be the dictator of Hungary." He adds that there is no reason to worry: "Well put this rebellion down!" Metternich rejects Istvns plans.

Istvn speaks with Colonel Karl. He says therell be bloodshed all over. They salute each other and leave.

 

Bratislava. March 15, 1848. Istvn gets onto a ship on the river. He announces: "Gentlemen I accept the ministerial position" Loud cheers from the Hungarians go up.

Vienna. The feeling among the Hungarians is that they must demand the immediate installation of their government.

A citizen jumps on Metternichs coach and tries to stop it. Metternich tells the man he and his wife are leaving. The fellow jumps down from the coach to let Metternich leave. The times are quite giddy. Istvn writes Crescence: "Hungary will now revolve around it own axis, finally." And now Istvn, Kossuth and Batthynyi all work together. The bridge nears completion.

Crescence finds her husbands diary and opens it up to read it. Istvn speaks of a bloody battle in Buda at the city headquarters. Soldiers dispersed them. This is the beginning of the end, he writes. Two thousand scoundrels broke into the Chamber and demanded weapons. The Emperor is rumored to be ill and refuses to come to Buda. Jelasic, armed with a Croatian army, marches against them. "We are defenseless"says Istvn.

Istvn comes in to shower kisses on Crescence. He is full of optimism. He says the King will come and Hungary will become an island of peace. Europe itself is in total chaos and Istvn believes this was all his doing, since he started it. He finds his diary open but says nothing to Crescence. He just tells her that tomorrow everything will be decided.

July 18, 1848. Istvn has been up since 2 oclock in the morning. He and Crescence attend the last step to finish the bridge. The bridge will be opened between Buda and Pest. But as they use huge chains to bring the last two sections together, the chain snaps and workers and officials are killed and fall into the water below. Then whole pieces of the last sections fall into the river killing other people. Istvn himself barely misses being killed. Crescence was so scared that she fainted.

Istvn arrives home shouting reproaches to himself: "I know everything!" and "I shouldnt have spoken before!" And now he wants to kill himself with a knife. He thought that the King would be with them, but no, he sends his army against them instead. Istvn then starts saying that he must not see his wife again. He will kill her if he does. When she comes he starts screaming: "Get her out of here!" and "Save yourself Crescence!"

Istvn comes out to see Kossuth and Batthyny, but just keeps staring at his hands. Men start asking the disturbed man: "Whats the matter with you?" He tells them: "Im seriously ill." He says he is burning up. Both of the Hungarian leaders are sympathetic to Istvns predicament. They tell him by all mean he must go and get some rest. They will take over his present duties until he is better

Back to the present. Dobling. September 7, 1848. In the Insane Asylum the director says that he has only aristocratic patients, which is better suited for Istvn.

 

The Batthyny government resigns. Under Kossuth a revolution breaks out against the Habsburg Empire. The Austrian army was finally able to destroy the Hungarian rebellion during the summer of 1849, but only with substantial military assistance from Russia.

Kossuth fled abroad, to Italy. Dozens of Hungarian politicians, officers and soldiers were executed and hundreds sent to prison. Batthyny is put on trial, accused of initiating open rebellion in Hungary. The decision is that he should be hanged on October 6, 1849. The decision was given by order of Lt. General Karl Clam-Martinitz. Senior Military Judge. Instead of hanging the man, Karl has him shot by a firing squad. Just before he is executed, Batthyny shouts "Long live Hungary!" He is shot to death.

In the insane asylum, Istvn is eating a rolled-up newspaper. Later he gets a haircut. Crescence suddenly shows up without being announced. She tells her husband that she was warned that he still might not want to see her. She tells him frankly that if he does not snap out of this catatonic-like state, Hungary will remain in this lifeless dream forever! And his two sons will forget the name of their country, just as they will forget their fathers name. Istvn says nothing. His wife finally says that she will never come here unannounced again. She adds: "Wake up!"

Vienna. 1860. The Emperor meets with an older Metternich. Treasonous articles have appeared in the London Times. They are taken from an old book by an anonymous author who lives near Vienna; namely Count Istvn Szchenyi. Metternich is shocked saying that the man cannot be the author. He is mad. The old politician adds that they should not make a martyr out of Count Istvn. But the Emperor is worried. There is a threat of a possible revolt, not to mention all the bad publicity worldwide. The Emperor tells his staff to keep the Hungarian leader under supervision. A man named Kiss is given the job.

Kiss and his men speak to the director of the insane asylum that holds Count Istvn. The director tells Kiss that the man is incapable, incapacitated and harmless. But Kiss and his men dont believe it. He is said to converse as a normal man would with others. The suggestion is to move him to a state asylum, but the director objects that this would lead to the rebels rapid destruction. He strongly protests against such a move.

The day comes to move Istvn. The man is absolutely thrilled that he has caused so much concern and is now receiving so much attention. He tells his visitors that Crescence is currently visiting him.

Thierry of the intelligence staff says that Istvn is just using the sanatarium as a refuge. Metternich defends the man saying that he only wants to speed up the reconciliation between the Empire and Hungary. But the Emperor says that Count Istvn Szchenyi is a dangerous man. And so, Count Istvn Szchenyi must disappear.

April 8, 1860. Crescence is leaving. Her husband tells her that from now on he will never leave the building at all. He adds: "Theyll never get the better of me!"

A hearse arrives. A shot is heard. It seems that the Count has shot and killed himself. Thierry is furious because he believes that now their enemies will accuse the monarchy of killing the Count.

A huge funeral is held for Count Istvn Szchenyi. Lt. General Karl Clam-Martinitz comes to pay his respects to his old friend and adversary. Crescence walks past him saying: "Have you come to have someone shot, Lt. General?" The military man says absolutely nothing. He just remains with a very sad look on his face.

After a series of lost battles and continued Hungarian resistance, Emperor Franz Joseph was forced to acknowledge Hungary as an equal partner in the monarchy. In 1867 the Emperor signed the Compromise Agreement, creating the Austro- Hungarian Empire. The Palace of Academy and the Chain Bridge are still standing in the center of Budapest.

 

Good movie. A bit long and complicated, but still very good. The film presents Count Istvn Szchenyi as a peculiar fellow and a good leader, who seemed to always pull it together at the end, except for his last adventure. The strange love affair between the Count and Crescence was also entertaining. Nice to have such a detailed account of the movement toward Hungarian independence.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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