Last Report on Anna, a BioPic about Hungarian Social Democrat Anna Kethly (Eniko Eszenyi), is told in flashback by “Peter Faragó” (Ernõ Fekete), the nephew of Anna’s lover “Laci” (Jakob Ladanyi).
The Iron Curtain is down & the Cold War is over. Anticipating public exposure, Peter summons his long estranged brother to a private meeting. Peter’s secret: years earlier, he was sent to Belgium to spy on Anna in exile & try to convince her to return to Hungary.
Flashback within a flashback: When the Soviets invade Hungary in 1956, Anna escapes to plead the cause of Imre Nagy’s reform government at the UN, but her eloquent speeches fall on deaf ears. Decades pass. Anna continues living in the West; Laci is trapped in the East.
Then Peter arrives in Brussels (her current residence) ostensibly to present a paper at an academic conference. Anna sizes up the situation immediately. Yes, Peter is a genuine scholar, but she knows his travel visa comes with conditions. Peter tries to convinces Anna to come to Hungary to see Laci as ordered, but she knows her return would be used to legitimate the Jan Kadar government, & this she refuses to do.
Since Anna’s story was totally new to me, I was always intrigued & pulled forward by the excellent acting. Eniko Eszenyi, in particular, is remarkably believable as Anna even over the span of almost 50 years. The narrative threads were clearly laid out, but I must admit I kept wondering which parts were historical & which were imagined. What’s totally clear, however, is writer/director Márta Mészáros determination to spin a compelling tale regardless of what she knows (or doesn’t know) about the details of Kethly’s personal life. Kudos for rekindling interest in this almost forgotten 20th Century heroine!
The Jewish content in Last Report on Anna emerges from the narrative. What’s documented is Anna Kethly’s historical relationship with Golda Meir (played here by Beata Fundalej) bonding first as Socialists but also as women during the 50s. More interesting is the fact that Peter has no idea he’s from a Jewish family until Anna tells him so. But by the time he gets to Brussels, Peter is already an adult, so the fact that his parents felt so compelled to hide their Jewish roots from their children says a great deal about Jewish life behind the Iron Curtain.
Photo courtesy of CIFF.