God afton, Herr Wallenberg - En Passionshistoria frn verkligheten

Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg (1990)

 

 

 

Director:  Kjell Grede.

Starring:  Stellan SkarsgDrd (Raoul Wallenberg), Katharina Thalbach (Maria), Kroly Eperjes (Szamosi), Mikls Szkely B. (Ferenc Moser), Erland Josephson (The Rabbi), Franciszek Pieczka (Papa), Jesper Christensen (Wattheau Officer), Ivan Desny (Schmidthuber), Gza Balkay (Vajna), Percy Brandt (Swedish Ambassador), Tams Jordn (Man at the Jewish Council), Andor Lukts (Father at the train), Gbor Reviczky (Officer in the Street), Lszl Sos (Eichman), Franciska Gyry (Julia).

Swedish national saves Hungarian Jews; the largest and most successful rescue of Jews during World War II

 

Central Europe, 1943.  The Swede Raoul Wallenberg is traveling on a train on a business trip.  All of a sudden the train staff are pulling down the curtains.  They tell the passengers that it is a blackout.  This makes Wallenberg very curious for it's bright day outside.  He satisfies his curiosity, but changes his life too by raising the curtain.  From a train on the next track they are throwing out dead bodies from a boxcar.  Wallenberg insists on watching even when the train staff pull the curtain down again.  He just raises it once more.  A prisoner jumps from the boxcar to pick up the body of a young boy.  A loud shot is heard.  He starts carrying the boy then another loud shot is heard which strikes the man in the back.  The man, however, still stands erect holding the dead boy.  He just stares at Herr Wallenberg and the transfixed Wallenberg just stares at the man.

June 1944.  Stockholm, Sweden.  A very skeptical rabbi is questioning Wallenberg about his qualifications to take on an upcoming dangerous rescue mission.  He notes that Wallenberg has no political views, is a man of finance not adventure and does not believe in God.  And he is a mere importer of delicacies.  The rabbi tells him that he is too mediocre for the mission.  But Wallenberg is in luck.  Everyone seems to want mediocrity.  Even the Germans approve of you, says the rabbi.  The Germans will welcome the money he will bring to save 500 Jews.  In his defense, Wallenberg tells them about the train incident.  He says: "This is the only real thing I have seen in all my life."  He wants the job.

December 1944, Budapest, Hungary.  Wallenberg nervously walks back and forth in the middle of the street in what is supposed to be an area of "safe" houses for the Jews.  Some of the Jews he is trying to save watch him as he moves back and forth.  Marja (or Maria) says to the others with her:  "He looks like one of the efficient sort . . . I detest them."  Wallenberg shows some official papers to the guards at the door of the apartment building.  They let him enter the building.  He starts walking up the stairs and sees Marja who only wears a long coat for clothing.  The residents tell Wallenberg that they are going to die.  The Germans have killed 200 of their people.  They were left over by mistake, but they intend to rectify the mistake.  Mr. Wallenberg moves around.  Julien Rosen says to the group:  "He's only been here a couple of months, and he's saved thousands."  Her sister Lilith goes farther.  She seems to fawn over Wallenberg.  Then the group start making fun of the man in overall charge, Eichmann, and how Wallenberg was not intimidated by the beast.

Wallenberg gives the tenants Swedish immunity passes.  He then sits and waits.  He meets the Rosen sisters. A couple come to the rabbi and tell him that they want to get married.  The rabbi is very skeptical about this: "How can it be done?"  Wallenberg goes out to deal with the Germans and then comes back.  The rabbi speaks with Marja and tells her to button her coat.  They then have a marriage service.  Wallenberg's car is not seen in the street.  Herr Wallenberg has gone on another mission.  His driver and right hand man Szamosi drives him to meet a train carrying Jewish prisoners.  Szamosi got the car from the Spanish embassy which has now closed down, because the Russian troops are not far away.   Wallenberg bullies the German sergeant with threats of punishment for his incompetence so much that the man is left speechless.  Szamosi quickly backs the truck right up to the box car holding the prisoners.  The door is opened and the Jews stream out onto the back of the truck.  The truck then quickly leaves.  Herr Wallenberg follows in a car.  

Wallenberg returns to the apartment building and talks with Marja.  She is extremely depressed.  She tells him the Germans took her daughters ten weeks ago.  She explains that she is naked under her coat to show the Germans that the Jews are real people. 

German troops gather in the street. But something is wrong.  There are too many of them.  They have sent 2,000 soldiers, not 200.  "Abort the operation!" shouts Wallenberg.  He then tells Marja:  "Put on your coat!  I want you to survive."  The soldiers rush into the building while Wallenberg keeps yelling "All here have Swedish passports."  After awhile, the soldiers just start laughing.  They had come expecting a real fight with armed men. But the Hungarian fascist in charge takes a family of four and makes them lean against the building.  He then executes one after the other with a shot to the head with his pistol.   

Wallenberg makes a visit to the enclosed Jewish ghetto.  Men are picking up the dead bodies on the street.  There are 65,000 people in the ghetto.  Some of the inmates of this prison ask Wallenberg to make sure he finds out if the Germans intend to destroy the ghetto this very night.  The ghetto then receives a very important visitor:  Eichmann.  The German officers tell Wallenberg:  "Your time in Budapest is over, Herr Wallenberg."  Wallenberg asks one officer, who he had bribed with lots of money, if this means that they have made the decision to kill him.  Yes.  And yes, the ghetto must go.  In addition, the 35,000 people Wallenberg has in "safe" houses will also be killed. 

At the apartment building, he learns:  "Not one of this lot will survive."  Wallenberg then goes to the Swedish embassy.  There it is a mass of activity there.  The Russians have broken through at Biecske.  The Germans plan to blow the bridges.  Budapest is completely surrounded.  Eichmann has left Budapest.  But the Russians will have to take Budapest street by street and this will take time.  Wallenberg tells the embassy staff that the Germans are holding an official death sentence over his head.  News arrives that the Germans are blocking food to the ghetto. 

Wallenberg then argues with the sadistic Hungarian fascist in charge.  The man seems to have no remorse what so ever over killing thousands of people.  Perhaps he is even a psychopath so the Germans put him in charge of exterminating Jews.  The Hungarian fascist has most of the Jews from the building on a flat-bed truck.  Wallenberg tries to get them away from the psychopath, but he has no interest in letting anyone go. 

From a rooftop, a German soldier has been shot dead in the street.  Wallenberg rushes into the building and up to the roof to find the recently married couple.  They have no weapon.  The shot came from another roof.  Wallenberg heads back down to the street and tells them that the guy who shot at them is dead.  They believe him.  But the Hungarian fascist shoots the mother of the recently married young man in the back of the head and a German soldier kills the father.  A car drives up from the Swedish embassy and tells Wallenberg that Eichmann is in the ghetto;  it's happening tonight. 

Wallenberg starts having a mental break down.  He shouts"  "I can't take it any more.  It's over."  In the ghetto the Germans shoot down a bunch of children trying to get at a huge milk container. Back at the Swedish embassy Wallenberg has to lay down.  Szamosi comes to get Wallenberg.  They go over to the now abandoned Eichmann house.  Szamosi uses an automatic weapon to shoot up Eichmann's Christmas tree. Wallenberg feels he has reached the end of his tether.  But this actually frees him.  He tells a Swedish superior:  "I don't obey anyone now."  He's going to do exactly what he thinks is needed. 

Wallenberg tries to get some sleep in the apartment building. Marja looks at him lying in the bed.  She goes down to the street and exposes herself to a German soldier.  He is going to the bathroom in a bucket and pays no attention to her.  She returns to the apartment building and gets dressed.  She tells Wallenberg that she wanted the guard to shoot her.  She adds:  "I will not leave this house.  And I will not hide again."  She tells Wallenberg that her daughters are dead.  They were shot in this very room.  Wallenberg holds her.   

Wallenberg talks to the Hungarian fascist.  He tells him:  "You will shoot yourself."  There will be no more killing, you will shoot yourself.  The fellow tells everyone on the back of the truck that they can go.  But the German soldier has a different idea.  He shoots everyone on the truck.  Wallenberg tells Marja that he will move her to a safer place, but Marja says that she doesn't want to be saved.  Wallenberg comments:  "Things will get worse."  He then leaves.  Marja runs downstairs to ask him:  "I hadn't thought to ask you, but if I ever asked, would you kiss me?" Scene changes.

The Germans are driving Jewish orphans into the ghetto to be killed.  Wallenberg tries to stop this with no effect.  He talks to the German minister.  The minister is willing to make some concessions in return for a Swedish immunity pass and some provisions.  Wallenberg says yes.  The minister adds:  "We need you.  Your presence soothes the world's conscience."

Wallenberg sees three people shot and fall into the river.  He enters an apartment building and tells the soldiers that this building is under Swedish protection. The head fellow wants money for their lives.  Wallenberg gives him quite a bit of money.  They leave.  Wallenberg asks all those who are still alive to stand up.  No one stands up.  They are all dead.  He was conned. 

A Swedish high-ranking official tries to send Wallenberg home.  But Wallenberg will not go.  The official tells Wallenberg that he has now become a burden.  Wallenberg won't leave.  Instead he returns to see Marja.  She tells him:  "I want to kill someone"  Her father tells Raoul that she won't make it. 

Szamosi arrives and tells Wallenberg that the Germans are taking 273 people out of one of the safe houses.  Wallenberg runs to the place.  Szamosi learns that the 35 children he had saved from death have all been killed.  He is very upset to say the least.  Wallenberg then tries to stop the execution of a number of young males lined up against a wall.  The executioners just laugh at Wallenberg.  They shoot all the men. 

Lilith Rosen was used like a whore by some fascists.  Then the main fellow pushes her out into the street.  She just stands there and he just keeps pushing her harder and harder.  Marja picks up an automatic weapon on the street, walks up behind the man and shoots him dead.  When Wallenberg returns to the apartment building he is so glad to see Marja up and about that he hugs and kisses her. 

The Russian army has arrived.  The people in the ghetto are free.  The recently married young woman returns to the apartment building and is welcomed by Marja.  Wallenberg waits upstairs.  The Russians will be picking him up.  The tenants try to warn Wallenberg.  "Wallenberg, don't go down to them."   He replies "I know what I'm doing  . . . almost."  They persist saying the Russians have quite different plans for him than he expects.  But Marja tells him:  "I think you should go."  He tells them that in ten days, he'll be back.  He tells them:  "For the first time, I almost feel as if I were no worse a man than any." 

January 17, 1945.  The Russians take Wallenberg to be a prisoner in Moscow.  He was never released. 

 

A good film about a good man who gave his life to save some of the Jews of Hungary.  Stellan SkarsgDrd was just terrific as the hero Raoul Wallenberg.  In the film the character is said to be a mediocre man with no special talents.  And Wallenberg himself agrees to this description.  He must have been very tortured mentally.  He actually looked depressed.  A couple of strange remarks were that he would just as soon live in one country as another, and marry one woman just as much as any other.  As he says, for the first time in his live he had come alive.  He rose to the occasion.  He worked tirelessly, even risking a complete mental breakdown, to save as many people as possible.  And measured against every other attempt to save the Jews, he did a marvelous job.  The budding love story between Wallenberg and Marja helped cut the pain a bit of viewing the horrible events depicted in the film.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.       

 


Historical Background:

Wallenberg was just 32 years old when he arrived in Budapest in July 1944.  In the six months he was there, he made possible the largest and most successful rescue of Jews during World War II. 

 

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