You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Telluride Film Review: ‘Those Who Remained’

Hungarian director Barnabás Tóth explores the achingly tender connection between two Holocaust survivors.

Barnabás Tóth
Károly Hajduk, Abigél Szőke, Mari Nagy, Katalin Simkó, Barnabás Horkay, Andor Lukáts. (Hungarian dialogue)

1 hour 28 minutes

Official Site: https://www.menemshafilms.com/those-who-remained

Many films deal with the suffering of the Holocaust years, but far fewer focus on those who managed to return from the camps. The achingly tender Hungarian drama “Those Who Remained” fills that gap. Perceptively directed by Barnabás Tóth, it taps into a deep well of honestly earned emotion as it tells the story of two traumatized survivors whose relationship helps them to heal and provides them with someone to live for. Set in the period between 1948 and ’53, the period drama also takes on the purges of Hungarian politician Mátyás Rákosi’s Communist regime. Following its world premiere in Telluride, this exquisite, poignantly performed tale will be released in North American by Menemsha Films.

After the war, the gentle but haunted Dr. Aládar “Aldó” Kőrner (Károly Hajduk), 42, returns to his ob-gyn hospital practice. His wife and two small boys perished in the camps, and he lives alone, with only his medical journals for company, until Klára (Abigél Szőke), a 16-year-old force of nature, storms her way into his life.

We first meet Klára, nicknamed Sunny, in Aldó’s clinic and she’s definitely not radiating good humor. She’s dismissive of her school classes and classmates, unhappy in the frugal home she shares with her always-worried great-aunt Ogi (Mari Nagy) and above all, in denial about the fate of her parents, to whom she continues to write long letters. Sensing a kindred spirit in Aldó, she bombards the compassionate doctor with personal information and countless questions, and with the boldness of youth, doesn’t hesitate to question his lifestyle and even his clothing choices. But Klára is also an intelligent old soul, and her statement that “It’s harder for us than those who left,” resonates with Aldó. Soon, he is acting as a foster father and sharing her custody with Ogi.

Klára thrives under the new arrangement. She finds she can talk to Aldó about anything: religion, the past, her parents and the little sister that she feels guilty about being unable to save. Aldó, discernibly happier, but unable to be as verbally expressive, shares his pre-war photo albums with Klára in a beautifully directed, wordless scene.

Popular on Variety

Tóth also demonstrates remarkable delicacy in his depiction of Aldó and Klára’s physical proximity. Klára, especially, yearns for his touch, something that is easily misinterpreted by strangers. A spinsterish school teacher comes upon Klára and Aldó on a park bench, Klára’s head in his lap and his hand stroking her hair, and is duly scandalized. At night, when Klára tiptoes into Aldó’s lonely single bed, it is because she cannot bear to be separated from him. Theirs is a chaste, father-daughter love, scrupulously monitored by Aldó, until one terror-filled night, when there is a possibility of it becoming something more.

In his sophomore feature, the France-born, Budapest-based helmer (perhaps best known for his prize-winning 2018 short “Chuchotage”) sensitively establishes and sustains an affecting but understated dramatic tone, aided by his superb leads. He also leaves room for some ambiguity and individual audience interpretation. Certainly, when seeing the age-appropriate partners (Katalin Simkó, Barnabás Horkay) that Aldó and Klára have in 1953, some viewers may have a sense of a second tragedy; that two soulmates who so enrich each other are not together in a conventional sense.

Creating a very cinematic adaptation of 2004 novel by Zsuzsa F. Várkonyi, Tóth and co-screenwriter Klára Muhi include well-integrated flashbacks to Klára’s past that indicate how she is healing. Meanwhile, they smoothly incorporate the menace of the Stalinist era with references to those who have been disappeared at night, the chilling stress on the word “Comrade” and the shamefaced confession of Aldó’s colleague Pista (Andor Lukáts), himself the foster father to two survivor daughters, who reveals that he has joined the Party and been asked to inform on him.

In her first leading film role, Abigél Szőke (who played the vampire girl in a György Pálfi-directed stage production of “Let the Right One In”) is a revelation. She makes Klára’s energy, pain and smarts palpable, all the while being touchingly tuned to the emotional shadings of Aldó. A prize-winning theater thesp as well as a film veteran, Hajduk is equally fine, giving heart-breaking nuance to what is a more interior-directed role.

Shot mostly in interiors or empty, dark streets, the production package does a lot with very little. Gábor Marosi’s intimate widescreen lensing is attuned to the minutest detail of the performers’ expressions and the dusty hues suggest the period as do the costumes. László Pirisi’s delicate score is just right.

Telluride Film Review: 'Those Who Remained'

Reviewed online, Chicago, Aug. 29, 2019. (In Telluride Film Festival.) Running time: 88 MIN. (Original title: ‘Akik maradtak’)

Production: (Hungary) A Menemsha Films release of an Inforg-M&M Film production, in co-production with Visionteam, with the support of Media Council of the National Media, Infocommunications. (Int'l sales: Hungarian Film Fund, Budapest.) Producer: Mónika Mécs. Co-producers: Ernő Mesterházy, Gábor Rajna, Arpad Szirmai, Attila Faragó, Judit Stalter, Gabor Sipes.

Crew: Director: Barnabás Tóth. Screenplay: Tóth, Klára Muhi, based on the novel by Zsuzsa F. Várkonyi. Camera (color, widescreen): Gábor Marosi. Editor: Ágnes Mógor. Music: László Pirisi.

With: Károly Hajduk, Abigél Szőke, Mari Nagy, Katalin Simkó, Barnabás Horkay, Andor Lukáts. (Hungarian dialogue)

More Film

  • Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and

    Film News Roundup: Leonardo DiCaprio Presenting Robert De Niro SAG Life Achievement Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Leonardo DiCaprio will present Robert De Niro with his SAG Life Achievement Award, the Oliver Sacks documentary finds a home and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television gets a new dean. AWARD PRESENTATION Leonardo DiCaprio has been selected to present Robert De Niro the SAG Life Achievement Award  at [...]


    ‘Karnawal,’ ‘Restless,’ ‘Summer White,’ ‘Firsts’ Win Big at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES  — With Ventana Sur now firing on multiple cylinders, featuring pix-in post or project competitions for not only art films but also genre pics and animation – two sectors embraced by young creators in Latin America – “Karnawal,” “Restless,” “Summer White” and  “Firsts” proved big winners among Ventana Sur’s arthouse and animation competitions, [...]

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    From "1917" to "Jojo Rabbit," Composers of Some of the Year's Top Scores Talk Shop

    “1917,” Thomas Newman The 20-year collaboration of director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman has encompassed midlife crisis (“American Beauty”), crime in the Depression (“Road to Perdition”), the Gulf War (“Jarhead”), marriage in the 1950s (“Revolutionary Road”) and two James Bond adventures (“Skyfall,” “Spectre”). Now they’ve tackled World War I, with “1917,” but Mendes’ much-talked-about [...]

  • Billy Magnussen Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Spinoff With Billy Magnussen's Character in the Works for Disney Plus

    Disney is developing a spinoff of its live-action “Aladdin” with Billy Magnussen reprising his Prince Anders character. The unnamed project is in early development for the studio’s recently launched Disney Plus streaming service. Disney has hired Jordan Dunn and Michael Kvamme to write a script centered on the haughty Prince Anders, one of Princess Jasmine’s [...]

  • ROAD TRIP – In Disney and

    Disney Boasts a Bevy of Hopefuls for Oscar's Original Song Race

    When the Academy announces its shortlist for song nominations on Dec. 16, you can be certain that at least one Disney song will be on it and probably more. Disney songs have been nominated 33 times in the past 30 years, winning 12 of the gold statuettes. This year, the studio has at least four [...]

  • Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    It’s next to impossible for a documentary score to be Oscar-nominated alongside the dozens of fictional narratives entered each year. But it did happen, just once: In 1975, composer Gerald Fried was nominated for his music for “Birds Do It, Bees Do It,” a documentary on the mating habits of animals. Fried, now 91, perhaps [...]

  • Ron Leibman, Jessica Walter'Mary Stuart' Play

    Ron Leibman, Tony-Winning Actor Known for 'Angels in America' and 'Friends,' Dies at 82

    Ron Leibman, an Emmy-winning actor who garnered a Tony for his work in Broadway’s “Angels in America” and played the father of Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green on “Friends,” died on Friday. He was 82. Robert Attermann, CEO of Abrams Artists Agency, confirmed the news to Variety. No further details were immediately available. Leibman, a native [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content