Red Rose (Friendship and love in the time of occupation)
Friendship and Love during the Hungarian Invasion of Czechoslovakia. Hungarian troops crossed the border of Czechoslovakia on 2oth of August 1968, following a Soviet command to invade the southern part of the country mainly populated by Hungarians. The code name for the operation to invade one of the strategically important Czechoslovakian barracks was Red Rose. The operation was carried out without any direct casualties; however, for many of the men involved, these events prove to be life-changing.
The film revolves around human relationships: in episode-like parts friendships and loves are depicted; relationships that were born, grew deep or were torn apart for ever during the three months of the invasion. The main character is a Hungarian soldier taking part in the operation. It gave him two important things: friendship and love. That was the place and time where and when he met the Hungarian farmer living in Slovakia who became his friend for life; and it was his correspondence during that time with his lover back home that deepened their fresh bond and led them into marriage. Although the letters written during his time away were censored, their confessions illustrate perfectly the feelings of both soldier and lover left behind. Yet, for the sake of this story, the former army driver takes up the journey to drive through the same route as he did in 68 just to put flowers on the grave of his friend, like every year, and hug his children, who, as young boys, would come round to check out the camp of the invading troops based in the neighbouring farm.
The film is a kind of a road movie, a journey in space and time. This visit is what sets the protagonist on this journey, during which he meets his former fellow soldiers, who, reconstructing the original settings, in little episodes ‘replay’ this life-changing experience which is burnt into their minds even half a century later.
Somewhere between a documentary and a fiction movie, the short reproduction-like scenes form exciting, funny, and at times painful episodes from the lives of the families left behind at home, on the girls living in the Czechoslovakian farms, on friendships, and on the behind-the- scenes lives of the troops. The characters help us see the past, while their photos, their cherished little objects and the archive footage make it all more vivid and authentic. Sándor sets off on his journey from the barracks where they departed from back then, having no idea where they would be sent and why. At the border along the river Ipoly, he resets his watch as they should have crossed the border at midnight, Russian time. Here an interpreter is waiting for him, translating the first (reassuring) command by Svoboda: “There will be no armed resistance”.
The man, once a traffic manager, is standing there on the road in complete chaos due to the signposts deliberately turned in the wrong direction. As our man is approaching his destination, signs painted on the roads are crying out: Dubeck says: Go home! A camp is being set up in the forest. A radio officer repeats the command: “If the protesting Slovaks do not turn back, open fire on them…” In his free time, Sándor writes to his love; a captain is trying to forget his wedding that got cancelled due to the invasion, while a tank commander is interpreting for the Slovak girls who have sneaked in to bring food for the soldiers. One of them, in the end, marries a Hungarian soldier. One man is singing a love song about Red Rose, the love of a Hungarian girl and a Slovak boy that he learnt from a local old lady. The men are making friends with the locals, who are still hoping that the area will be reattached to Hungary. They help them with the farm work; they have drinks together and watch the Mexican Olympic Games together. 50 years have passed. Many of them are dead but many are still alive and the memories bring tears into their eyes. The film paints a touching, grotesque, yet real picture of the events of 1968, while aiming to make a clean breast of what was and has ever since been blurred by the propaganda of the press, radio and television of the time.