Forced March Is a Sobering Meta-Film about the Neo-Fascist Movement in Hungarian Politics


Forced March is a film about filmmaking in which an actor, Ben Kline (Chris Sarandon), portrays Miklos Radnoti, a famous Hungarian Jew, in an attempt to retrace and come to terms with his own family’s traumatizing experiences with the Holocaust.

It sounds like a mouthful because it is. Thankfully, director Rick King’s elliptical editing weaves a captivating multigenerational story about guilt, family ties, and the power of forgiveness, one as timely now as it was upon its original release (to too little fanfare) in 1988. With scant media coverage here, Jobbik, a neo-fascist, ultra-conservative political “movement for a better Hungary,” holds nearly 20 percent of the country’s parliamentary control today, a historical déjà vu that would seem unbelievable if it weren’t already happening.

This extant social radicalism is the catalyst for Forced March‘s sadly appropriate re-release. The film’s meta qualities resonate mostly due to King’s understanding of the ways in which media can help people process the past. “People believe what they’re shown; movies become truth,” says Kline’s costar, giving him the motivation he needs to delve deeper into character.

Sarandon plays an actor playing a man who disavowed his own Jewish background in an attempt to survive. His wallpaper-like hybrid performance brings little to the role — but perhaps this despondency is King’s way of refocusing the audience to the sobering realities on display.