Susanne Kovács’s investigation into her Jewish Hungarian family’s past reveals untidy truths about memory and history
In Susanne Kovács’s intimate dive into her family history, memory is a tempestuous mistress. Brittle like glass, the ghosts of the past haunt generations of the Kovács family. Guided by the director’s desire to learn more about her grandmother’s time in the Mauthausen concentration camp – a painful chapter the elderly matriarch refuses to confide in detail – this documentary turns into a historical excavation. Startling revelations reveal how violence can breed violence.
As the camera patiently gazes over a wealth of family photographs, viewers get glimpses of Kovács’s grandmother Eva as a young girl. There are also childhood pictures of Kovács’s father, Peter, a smiling boy nestled between his parents. The contrast between reality and the happiness seen in these closeups is especially wrenching. Soon Eva, the lovely princess of a wealthy Jewish Hungarian family, will be deported to Mauthausen. As for Peter, he endured years of physical and mental abuse from his parents. His father, also a Holocaust survivor, would shout horrible slurs at his child, including calling Peter a fascist.