GOD AFTON, HERR WALLENBERG

(Aka Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg)

Sweden/Norway/Hungary, 118 min.

director.gif (905 bytes) Kjell Grede

CAST

Stellan Skarsgård - Raoul Wallenberg
Katharina Thalbach - Marja
Erland Josephson - The Rabbi

Jesper Christensen - The Officer
Ivan Desny - Schmidthuber


THEATRE RELEASE

Sweden, October 5, 1990

Filmed in Budapest, Hungary in 1989


ACCOLADES

Guldbagge (Sweden's Oscar) for Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Direction and Best Cinematography

Baltic Films Prize for a Nordic Feature Film at the Luebeck Film Festival


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SYNOPSIS

Raoul Wallenberg is considered one of the great heroes of World War II. A mild-mannered, apolitical upper-class Swede who was an importer of luxury foods from Hungary, he was directly responsible for saving thousands of Hungarian Jews from massacre by the Nazis.

The film is set mostly in Budapest in late 1944, where Wallenberg is using phony documents of Swedish citizenship to install Hungarian Jews in safe houses from which they can be evacuated in small groups. Wallenberg arranges the rescue of a group of about 20 Jews, only to have the truck break down   that is supposed to transport them to safety  He attempts to prevent their massacre by the Hungarian collaborationist officer who guards them.

At the same time, he learns that an order has been given to kill the 65,000 Jews in the Budapest ghetto. Although informed that his usefulness is over and that his death has been ordered, he refuses to leave the city and tries to save the ghetto. It is a race against time.


button_box.gif (205 bytes)PRAISE:

"Stellan Skarsgård gives an effortless performance. Most of the time he’s silent, while his character is simply striving to comprehend the insanity of the situation while giving hope to the hopeless. From a pallid face, his tired, bruised eyes calmly, slowly search the room for any intimation of substance or reality. Skarsgård delivers a performance of tremendous, measured dignity with many unseen, conflicting layers."     ...Apollo Movie Guide

"Swedish filmmaker Kjell Grede has tried to make the idea flesh, and he's succeeded almost entirely. By avoiding any urge to sentimentalize, and making the unformed, callow Wallenberg (Stellan Skarsgård) such a mediocre character, he makes what Wallenberg did all the more remarkable, because the man is so flawed."    ...Newsday

"Stellan Skarsgård is the actor who plays Wallenberg, and he lends Wallenberg a suitable air of authority and confidence that would have been appropriate for the man. Skarsgård also displays the occasional dose of humanity, as he breaks down and weeps after a Jewish couple is murdered against his direct protestations."    ...Thecritics.org

"Remarkable and unsparing."   ...Philadelphia Inquirer

"Powerfully acted and unsparingly detailed in its view of the barbarity."    ...Long Beach Press-Telegram

"A deeply moving film with message that tells of life and death race against time and the importance of  humanity in the face of barbarism."   ...Luebeck Film Festival

Stellan Skarsgård has become a star in American movies, speaking unaccented English, so it's interesting and rewarding to watch him work in his native Swedish. Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg features Skarsgård playing a thoroughly, unimpeachably heroic role, a rarity for him. Even his good guys usually are flawed."    ...Hartford Courant

"Skarsgård is merely perfect."   ...NY Post

"Stellan Skarsgård stars in this riveting 1990 drama about a figure every bit as heroic and noteworthy as Spielberg's Schindler. In this instance it was Swedish businessman Raoul Wallenberg, whose tireless efforts saved countless Hungarian Jews from the murderous clutches of Adolph Eichmann. Unlike Schindler's List, Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg is solidly European in its sensibilities -- there is no sentiment, no gloss, no redemptive glaze to the picture."   ...Boxoffice.com

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From the Press Book at the 1991 Berlin International Film Festival:

THE SWEDISH PIMPERNEL

"Are you an idealist" asks the skeptical Stockholm rabbi. "No," replies Raoul Wallenberg. Yet the soft-living Swedish businessman has decided, at the risk of is own life, go to Budapest and rescue Jewish victims of the fascist terror.

"Are you Wallenberg?" asks the little Jewish boy trapped in a Budapest house. "Yes," comes the quiet answer. Satisfied, the child lays his head on Wallenberg's chest and goes to sleep.

In the last phase of the war, the name of Wallenberg became a byword for salvation among the Jews of Budapest. Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg focuses on events in Budapest in January 1945: the Red Army is advancing victoriously, the German Special Commandos and the Nyilas, the Hungarian fascists, use the occasion of a brief visit by the Nazi butcher Eichmann to indulge in indiscriminate massacres, and Wallenberg is trying desperately to save the 65,000 Jews imprisoned in the ghetto. In the six months since has been in Budapest, he has managed to help hundreds of Jews to flee by securing Swedish passports for them, and is now sheltering many others in the Swedish embassy.

Based on historical accounts, Kjell Grede's film portrays an ordinary man motivated by pity who, in the course of his "Scarlet Pimpernel" mission witnesses such horror and wanton brutality that he develops an almost superhuman determination and fearlessness.

Wallenberg is self-sacrificing without being a martyr, heroic without the attitudes of a hero. When the Germans reject his pleas, he grabs Jews from under their noses; when the Swedish ambassador orders him home, he resolves to stay. Face to face he confronts the bloodthirsty Hungarian fascist Moser who is threatening to murder a group of 20 Jews stranded in a broken down truck. And tenderly, almost lovingly, he looks after the half-crazed Jewish woman Marja who stubbornly refuses to flee anymore.

As relentless as machine-gun fire, successive scenes - captured in somber light by Finnish cameraman Esa Vuorinen - depict the humiliation of the Jews, their helpless desperation and impossible hope. On a bomb site, a German officer conducts a bizarre auction of art treasures seized from their Jewish owners. In the midst of this barbarism, Wallenberg
stands out as a redeemer of our belief in humanity.

During the liberation of Budapest, Wallenberg was captured by the Red Army and taken to Moscow. He was never heard of again. Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg does not speculate on his fate. Grede is content to let his film rest as a memorial.