Review: The Interpreter (2018)


The Interpreter (2018)

Directed by: Martin Sulik | 113 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Peter Simonischek, Jirí Menzel, Zuzana Mauréry, Anita Szvrcsek, Anna Jakab Rakovska, Eva Kramerová, Réka Derzsi, Anikó Varga, Andrej Sebastian Sulik, Lubo Burgr, Karol Simon, Judita Hansman, Igor Hrabinský, Attila Mokos, Julian Polácikos Olhova, Mirka Grimaldi, Vasyl Mateleha, Martina Cseri, Erich Weinmüller

Eighty-year-old Ali Ungár leads an apparently uneventful retired life, despite the fact that not everything runs smoothly. The lonely widower has a hard time at home. His body begins to show the necessary flaws. He has only sparing contact with his daughter. Yet he does not seem to be burdened by all this. In the opening scene of ‘The Interpreter’, Ali is on a journey. Its fragile age makes it look like a perilous undertaking. He may not reach his destination at all without the help of some forthcoming fellow human beings. But the man continues undisturbed. When he finally achieves that goal, the elderly man turns out not to be as fragile and innocent as he thought. His briefcase houses a gun all this time. Ungár is a man on a mission.

The final destination is the last known residential address of a murderous SS commander. Ali (Jirí Menzel) suspects the Nazi leader of having killed his parents during World War II. After all these years, the time is sweet for revenge. However, instead of the intended target, it is his son who opens the door for him. The man himself has been dead for years, the son claims. Moreover, he has not seen his father for forty years. Ali drops off disappointed. A few days later, however, he is called by the same son, Georg (Peter Simonischek), with the request to make a trip together. He would like to get to know his father a little better by closely following his movements during the war. Ali, with his past as a writer and interpreter, reluctantly agrees. After all, the past must be recognized.

That past haunts their lives like a ghost. For Ali, the present cannot be seen without what has gone before. The death of his parents is an unchanging scar he can’t get out of his mind. Georg, on the other hand, leads a freer life, as the ultimate counter-reaction to his former life as a murderer’s child. Their respective way of life seeps into their character. One is of bitter punctuality and regulation, the other disregards any form of consensus. One holds up its walls rigidly, the other has rigorously breached them. However different they may seem, for both it is a way of giving the past a place. Both Ali and Georg are searching. They are emphatically the product of their parents, without knowing exactly who they were.

Both of them clinging so steadfastly to their own points of view only makes their quest more murky. The past only gets further and further away as a result, a delusion constructed by their own tenacity. Their self, so carefully preserved, is no more than a delusion. Especially when it turns out that the past is not set in stone as truth. Their interpretation of the events during the war is partly based on false memories. Their present is therefore no less false.

‘The Interpreter’ strictly follows the conventions of the road movie. Initially, the two descendants face each other, caught in their prejudices. But due to the encounters with the people they encounter on their journey of discovery, they gradually thaw. Other people also have their own history, they are by no means alone. Their similarities, because of course they are there eventually, can be revealed bit by bit. Their loneliness becomes a shared sorrow. That is not a particularly groundbreaking course. But because the film strikes a good balance between seriousness and light-heartedness, the end result is penetrating and, in its own way, heartwarming.

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