A Hídember (The Bridgeman) (2002)
Director: Géza Bereményi.
Starring: Károly Eperjes (Count István Széchenyi), Irina Latchina (Crescence), Ervin Nagy (Lajos Kossuth), Can Togay (Lajos Batthyányi), György Cserhalmi (Miklós Wesselényi), Marius Bodochi (Karl Clam-Martinitz), Iván Darvas (Metternich), Adél Kováts (Caroline Mead), Sándor Gáspár (Pál Széchenyi), Tibor Gáspár (Lajos Széchenyi), Dezsö Garas (Felsenthal), Attila Kaszás (Necosek), László Sinkó (Count Zichy), Péter Haumann (Dr. Coenget), József Szarvas (Mihály 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 István Széchenyi, the "Greatest Hungarian". Another man says he is the head minister of the rebels. The Count himself keeps saying defamatory things such as: "I’m the anti-Christ."; "I’m the cause of everything."; "I’m the destroyer of Hungary."; "I’m Ariman, beast of the Apocalypse." The Count sheds a tear.
Flashback. The future Count István Széchenyi is christened. A serf has the future count kiss the Austrian Emperor’s hand.
Flashback. A man on horseback, Captain Karl Clam-Martinitz, calls for Captain István Széchenyi. There also is Stefferl, the younger brother of István. 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 Prince’s 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 István sees Crescence he is absolutely astonished at her beauty.
István 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 István, who is now demonstrating a gas generator from Great Britain. Count Paul forces Caroline back as she tries to enter to confront István. Caroline still barges in and tries to strike István in the face with her riding crop. She fails in this. Caroline calls István a liar and a hypocrite. Since she can’t hit István, she takes out her anger on the man’s model of his proposed bridge to unite Buda and Pest. She shouts: "Empty promises!" and then faints.
Riding with Captain Karl, István tells him that he wants to remain single. So his friend asks for the woman he is currently seeing. István answers: "Fine!"
Metternich is not happy about some of István’s remarks, such as that the Habsburg Monarchy has only a hundred years left and its province will achieve complete independence. Therefore he promotes István’s friend Captain Karl to the rank of major, while keeping István at his current rank of Captain. Metternich suggests that Major Karl select better friends.
During a deer hunt, Caroline hides in some bushes. István 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 István. Caroline leaves. While riding back she starts bleeding from the mouth. She falls off her horse.
István 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 don’t torment me. Please don’t be so cruel." István leaves and Crescene cries.
His Majesty asks István where are his wounds. István 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 István: "Your choice: vanity or loyalty."
Crescence tells her husband about her confrontation with István. 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, István speaks with his major. He has to buy horses for his unit from the estate of Baron Miklós Wesseényi. The Baron won’t sell his horse Dali to István, but he will give him the horse to ride so he can learn first hand how great a horse is Dali.
Bratislava, 1825. István talks with Metternich, who tells the Hungarian that the Emperor hasn’t called for a Hungarian Parliament session in 13 years. Metternich then tells István that Baron Miklós Wesseényi 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, István sits with Baron Wesseényi. In the gallery he sees Crescence. István rises to make a statement and does so, but in the forbidden Hungarian language. Then Baron Wesseényi jumps up and makes a very nationalist speech for Hungary in Hungarian. Mitternich is so angry that he leaves the Chamber. István makes an offering. He will give one year’s 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.
István 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 István and lift him onto their shoulders. They declare him a national hero.
There is a big celebration. One of the guests asks where’s István. Actually, he’s 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. István agrees.
England 1832. In England István rides the locomotive Comet out of Dover. With him is Baron Wesseényi. They travel to see Thierney Clark, the engineer. István tells him that he wants to build a bridge that will symbolize the future. They talk awhile and then István says that the commission is his.
István 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 István.
Metternich’s aides tell him about the latest political moves of István. The talk is about independence from Vienna. And it is said that there is a secret weapons reserve in London.
Baron Wesseényi 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. István attends the funeral. He is very upset when Crescence’s 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 Batthyányi. The Hungarian patriot speaks with István and accuses him of only wanting to build his bridge. István refers to his critic as an "asshole".
Baron Wesseényi and Colonel Karl meet for their duel. They fight with swords. Wesseényi wins when he slashes across the face of the Colonel. This leaves a nasty scar on the Colonel’s face. Wesseényi is promptly arrested for dueling.
István asks Metternich why he arrested Baron Wesseényi and Kossuth. Mitternich says congratulations to István. 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. István 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 István’s new position.
Lower Danube. István 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 don’t want the Danube opened up, so they will try to
The Emperor is dead! The officials who want to quarantine István don’t like him because he incites the peasantry. But István pretends he is well and he is not quarantined.
István 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.
István and Crescence marry. Just a few people are in attendance.
Pest-Buda, 1839. They are building István’s 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 István to acknowledge Kossuth. The Austrian national anthem is played. Kossuth walks out. The audience demands that the orchestra play a Hungarian tune. István tells the audience to calm down and one audience member shouts back: "István Széchenyi you’ve lost the confidence of the people." Then a big fracas breaks out in the audience. István faints at the sight of such discord.
Pest. February 1848. Lajos Batthyányi comes to see István who is in bed. There is news of a revolution in Paris. He says now Kossuth has developed a rabid bite and that they can’t let him become a dictator. István 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 István that he must come to Bratislava.
Bratislava. March 1848. Kossuth wants to cut all ties with Austria. István stomps into the Chamber and gets booed by the assembled. Kossuth shouts that he has a letter from Vienna dealing with the actions of István. Two representatives held secret negotiations with Metternich. And who was behind this conspiracy, he asks. It’s none other than István himself. Outside Lajos Batthyányi says that Kossuth is right. They will make István a minister in an independent Hungarian government. Batthyányi will be the Prime Minister. István walks away.
István asks Vienna for a lot of power. Metternich comments: "I can’t believe that István wants to be the dictator of Hungary." He adds that there is no reason to worry: "We’ll put this rebellion down!" Metternich rejects István’s plans.
István speaks with Colonel Karl. He says there’ll be bloodshed all over. They salute each other and leave.
Bratislava. March 15, 1848. István 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 Metternich‘s 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. István writes Crescence: "Hungary will now revolve around it own axis, finally." And now István, Kossuth and Batthyányi all work together. The bridge nears completion.
Crescence finds her husband’s diary and opens it up to read it. István 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 István.
István 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 István 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. István has been up since 2 o’clock 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. István himself barely misses being killed. Crescence was so scared that she fainted.
István arrives home shouting reproaches to himself: "I know everything!" and "I shouldn’t 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. István 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!"
István comes out to see Kossuth and Batthyány, but just keeps staring at his hands. Men start asking the disturbed man: "What’s the matter with you?" He tells them: "I’m seriously ill." He says he is burning up. Both of the Hungarian leaders are sympathetic to István’s 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 István.
The Batthyány 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. Batthyány 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, Batthyány shouts "Long live Hungary!" He is shot to death.
In the insane asylum, István 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 father’s name. István 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 István Széchenyi. 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 István. 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 István. The director tells Kiss that the man is incapable, incapacitated and harmless. But Kiss and his men don’t 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 rebel’s rapid destruction. He strongly protests against such a move.
The day comes to move István. 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 István 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 István Széchenyi is a dangerous man. And so, Count István Széchenyi 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: "They’ll 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 István Széchenyi. 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 István Széchenyi 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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