BOOK AND FILM
The Restless Hungarian is a 105-minute documentary filmed in Hungary, the United States, Bolivia, France, and Belgium. It will premiere at international film festivals in spring 2022, before going into distribution.
It is a personal narrative set against the history of the Hungarian Jewish Diaspora, the rise of Modernism, and the Cold War. The “restless Hungarian” of the title is the filmmaker’s father, Paul Weidlinger.
In his public life, Paul Weidlinger was one of the most important structural engineers of the twentieth century. As a young architect he broke ranks with the great modernists with his radical idea of the “Joy of Space.” As an engineer he created the strength behind the beauty in skyscrapers, churches, museums, embassies, and the monumental sculptures of Pablo Picasso, Isamu Noguchi and Jean Dubuffet.
In his private life he was a divided man. He lost his family to war, mental illness, and suicide, yet lived behind a wall of denial. What had started out as an objective tale about a famous man became a personal story. The filmmaker observes: “Suddenly I was telling about my father and me, my schizophrenic mother, and my sister who took her own life and the life of her three-year-old son when I was a teenager. Suddenly my ‘journalist’s voice’ no longer worked.”
Using recreations within the documentary frame, Weidlinger filmed pivotal, traumatic moments from both his own and his father’s childhoods.
He traveled to Hungary, where he discovered that his father and his family were Jewish. He heard how they had suffered in the Holocaust. Why had Paul Weidlinger hidden this from his family in the United States? His son journeyed back in time, across three continents, to reconstruct Paul’s life. He found a haunting connection between his father’s denial of his identity and the tragedies that befell his family. Unexpectedly, he found compassion for the man he had hated as a teenager and young adult.
The Restless Hungarian: Modernism, Madness and the American Dream was published in April 2019 by Spark Press. The book won a Gold Medal for Biography from the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Kati Marton, a Hungarian-American journalist and author, writes: Weidlinger’s story of his father’s incredible life is both emotionally and intellectually satisfying. Historically pertinent and deeply personal, it is told with searing candor. It is poignant, tragic, and wise.
Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost, Bury the Chains, and To End All Wars, writes: There is a cinematic sweep in the way Weidlinger brings alive the story—and secrets—of his remarkable father.
Peter L. Stein, executive director emeritus of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, writes:
In excavating the mysterious background of his titanic father, Weidlinger deploys the kind of compressed storytelling he has honed as a documentary filmmaker: deftly intercutting between past and present, revealing tantalizing clues that he follows across continents and epochs, and providing lively context that enriches his family’s saga. It’s a deeply affecting journey.
Kirkus Reviews: A story of the visionary upheavals of the 20th century. … An immersive and well-told account of a father and his legacy.
Forward Reviews: The Restless Hungarian is a warm, heartfelt family memoir revolving around complicated relationships defined by world events.
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