Based on a short story which originally appeared in The New Yorker, this film stars David Niven as stiff-necked British Army Major Burnside, charged with closing a displaced persons camp in occupied Austria immediately following World War II. Burnside is confounded by his new duties -- he has a romantic attachment to the front -- and his charges include refugees from all over Europe and the USSR, as well as the very green Lt. Pilkington (John Hurt), a language specialist whose command of Latin is unlikely to help speed up the processing of the displaced. Pilkington enlists Janovic (Topol), a multi-lingual gypsy and con-man, to serve as camp interpreter. Janovic takes on the role of mediator and fixer both in the camp and in the countryside. When the commander of the Russian Zone questions Burnside about Janovic, and suggests he may have been a Russian deserter, Burnside is faced with making a decision about Janovic's fate. Newly remastered.
In this bitter drama that takes place in the immediate aftermath of World War II, British Major Giles Burnside (David Niven) is assigned to a Austrian refugee camp, his orders to send the masses of displaced civilians to either the Russian or the American zone. Burnside is a by-the-books commander but has trouble making himself understood in the gaggle of different languages. But one of the refugees, Janovic, (Topol), is energetic and can speak many languages and Burnside hires him as his interpreter. Janovic quickly conveys Burnsides's directives and gets the way station running efficiently. Janovic even has time to romance a lovely innkeeper, Maria (Anna Karina). But Janovic's love for Maria hits a brick wall when he finds that she is carrying on an illicit affair with Burnside. As the remaining refugees are being dispatched to the different zones of occupation, Janovic is found to be a Russian deserter who must be returned to the Russian mainland to be executed. Burnside offers to help him escape, but Janovic can't decide whether to trust Burnside or not.
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