Radnóti is one of Hungary's foremost poets and a national hero. He was a fervent nationalist and anti-fascist; this activity and being born a Jew condemned him during World War II to internment in a series of forced labor camps, where he died.
Hugo Perez travelled throughout Hungary and Serbia to film NMNM, which is built upon the poignant, courageous poems found in the notebook Radnóti had when his body was discovered. This is the synopsis from the filmmaker's website:
In the spring of 1946, a mass grave was unearthed in the Hungarian village of Abda. Twenty-two decayed bodies were found sprawled in the pit. One of the bodies found in the grave was that of the poet Miklos Radnoti, shot into the grave by Hungarian fascists eighteen months earlier. Found in the front pocket of his coat was a small notebook soaked in his bodily fluids. It was laid out to dry in the sunlight and when examined later revealed the poets last poems carefully handwritten onto the ruled lines of the notebook. In the so-called Bor Notebook, Radnoti, through poetry, told the story of the last six months of his life, months spent first as slave labor in a Nazi labor camp in Bor, Serbia, and then on a three-month forced march from Serbia to the small village of Abda where he was killed when he was too weak to continue.
Radnoti’s final poems serve as the backbone of the narrative of NEITHER MEMORY NOR MAGIC to reveal the story of a poet who continued to write poetry even as he faced almost certain death. Through the use of evocative and lyrical Super8 footage, readings of the poems to represent Radnoti’s account of his life, and interviews with some of those who knew him best and who got to know him in his last days, NEITHER MEMORY NOR MAGIC tells the story of one poet’s triumph over the inhumanity of his age –a story previously untold outside of Hungary.
I urge everyone in the area who can attend to see this haunting and beautiful documentary. Hugo Perez will be present to discuss the work following the screening. More about Radnóti, Perez, and the film is forthcoming in a future post.