The Lingering Impact of World War II
A Forgotten Man Review World War II was more than a battleground—it was a crucible that left indelible marks on individuals and nations. As the dust settled and the echoes of conflict faded, those who survived were left to grapple with the aftermath. For some, it meant dealing with post-traumatic stress, a haunting reminder of living in a perpetual state of alertness to survive. Others struggled to reconcile the horrors they witnessed with the world they once knew. And then, there were those higher up in the ranks, spared the gruesome trenches but burdened with the weight of brutal decisions.
It’s this complex tapestry of post-war struggles that “A Forgotten Man” dives into, unraveling the intricacies of the human experience in the aftermath of global conflict.
Maurice Bavaud’s Specter: A National Hero’s Tragic Fate
The stage is set with the unforgettable figure of Maurice Bavaud, a theology student whose audacious attempt to assassinate Hitler marked him as a national hero. Dragged along a corridor by Nazi guards in the opening scene, Bavaud’s vulnerability and strength, his resistance or perhaps frailty, are etched into the minds of the audience. Though he won’t grace the screen alive again, his presence will reverberate throughout the narrative, haunting Swiss ambassador Heinrich Zwygart.
Zwygart, portrayed with depth by Michael Neuenschwander, is recalled home to Switzerland amidst the announcement of Hitler’s demise. The reunion is far from what he expected. The once-affectionate family now grapples with the changes brought about by the war. The daughter, now embracing a new era with short hair, signifies a departure from the norm. The wife, maintaining a fading glamour, is a living relic of the past. Zwygart, a man of diplomatic finesse, tells his wife there has never been anyone else but her, yet there’s a palpable distance. Retreating to his study, he immerses himself in crafting a speech, a reflection of the inner turmoil he faces.
Heinrich Zwygart’s Return: Fractured Family and Changing Times
The film captures Zwygart’s return to Switzerland, not as a triumphant hero but as a man burdened by political and personal dilemmas. The political landscape is tainted with sympathies for the Nazis, and Zwygart, eyeing a seat on the Federal Council, finds himself navigating a society eager to downplay its links to Nazi Germany.
The tension extends beyond the political realm, seeping into Zwygart’s familial bonds. His elderly father, a colonel in WWI, disapproves of Switzerland’s neutrality, considering it a sign of weakness. The daughter, now a young woman, is in love with a boyfriend eager to interview Zwygart about his war record for a student newspaper. The once-grand household is depleted of staff, and Zwygart’s wife, the steadfast supporter, cannot assuage the nightmares that haunt his sleep—the face of Maurice Bavaud.
Nuances in Turmoil: Masterful Detailing and Atmospheric Tension
In the hands of director Laurent Nègre, “A Forgotten Man” elevates storytelling with nuanced details that transcend the screen. The position of Zwygart’s hands as his face betrays the emotions he wishes to conceal becomes a silent language of its own. Amidst the turmoil, a pair of mice nibbles on a dinner Zwygart cannot stomach, a metaphorical reflection of the unrest within him.
The film avoids graphic depictions of Bavaud’s fate, leaving it to the audience’s imagination. This deliberate restraint heightens the impact, emphasizing the contrast between the barbarity of war and the well-mannered exchanges in airy offices. The cinematography by Diego Dussuel adds another layer, making literal the sheen of civility that masks the horrors lurking underneath.
Power, Morality, and the Human Experience
As the narrative unfolds, “A Forgotten Man” becomes a finely wrought exploration of power, morality, and the human experience. In a world where individuals organize into larger groups, the responsibilities borne by those making top-level decisions threaten to pull them further away from conventional morality. The film suggests it’s not merely power that corrupts but that corrupt individuals find it easier to bear the weight of power.
Neuenschwander’s portrayal of Zwygart is compelling—he is first hailed as a hero, then condemned as a villain. The fear that neither label truly matters becomes the driving force of his character. In this cinematic journey, “A Forgotten Man” prompts reflection on the enduring impact of war on individuals and nations and the delicate dance between power and morality.
Conclusion: Unveiling the Echoes of War
“A Forgotten Man” isn’t merely a film; it’s a poignant exploration of post-war intricacies that transcends the confines of the screen. From Maurice Bavaud’s tragic heroism to Heinrich Zwygart’s nuanced return, the narrative unfurls the complexities of human existence in the aftermath of World War II. The film’s brilliance lies in its meticulous detailing, where every subtle nuance becomes a silent narrator of the underlying tension.
Director Laurent Nègre crafts a symphony of power, morality, and the human experience, suggesting that in the corridors of decision-making, the moral compass faces its sternest test. Michael Neuenschwander’s portrayal of Zwygart adds depth, evolving from hailed hero to condemned villain, mirroring the fragility of labels in the face of moral ambiguity.
As the credits roll, “A Forgotten Man” doesn’t conclude—it resonates. It invites introspection, prompting viewers to confront the ghosts of history and the enduring impact of war on the collective human psyche. In this lingering presence, the film becomes a catalyst for contemplation, a testament to its profound resonance in the realms beyond the cinema screen.