István Szabó announced his filmmaking genius to a wider world with the emotionally intense and atmospheric wartime drama "Bezalom" [Eng. Title: Confidence]. The title in this instance refers to 'trust', as in confiding in someone. The film was the first of his five Academy Award nominations for the Best Foreign Language Film category - he will win it in his next film Mephisto, but more on that in a later post.
The film takes place towards the fag-end of World War II, during the Nazi occupation of Hungary and the home-grown resistance movement. We follow Kata (Ildikó Bánsági), a young wife and mother, leaving a cinema. She's whisked away by a stranger who insists that she doesn't go home, informing that her husband is in danger too, due to his involvement in the resistance. To protect herself, she is asked to change her identity by pretending to be the wife of János (Péter Andorai), another resistance member - also married, and live with him in an old couple's house as refugees from a nearby region.
János cannot trust others fully even if they belong to the resistance, and he has his own reasons for that. But there is nevertheless an ever-present danger of being discovered, or being reported to authorities by snooping neighbours. Whilst living in the same room - almost as prisoners, Kata and János will inevitably draw close, and soon start seeking comfort in each others arms, both emotionally, and sexually. They also declare their love for each other during passionate embraces, only for János to return to his suspicious and withdrawn self the following morning. However, after they'd become lovers, the air of mistrust had taken on a different hue, arising over doubts of their mutual loyalty and faithfulness. They're conducting an affair knowing that they're already married, but the question whether they love their respective legitimate partners still, or perhaps even more so than each other, simply refuses to go away.
Their predicament is put to the test when Kata is sent a message to visit a secret location, to discover that her love-sick husband is waiting for her there. She stays with him for the night, and upon her return, hesitant about informing János of the rendezvous. When the Allies take the city, a decision has to be taken about their short but intense love affair. But as events transpire, that might not even be necessary...
The film admirably builds an atmosphere of coldness and mistrust through its stunning cinematography, aided also through exceptional performances from the two leads. The desolate streets of wartime Budapest shouldn't have been difficult to recreate for the film though, as it was also made during another repressive period - this time under communist rule. And since there was a message much closer to home, Szabó had to be careful in not giving the authorities more excuse to mutilate or even ban his work. Partly because of this, the film is circumspect in its depiction of nudity, covering the sex scenes mostly through a montage of stylised close-ups. But it also works very well here, in the way it illustrates the characters' intimacy under stressful conditions. The intense yet beautiful film deserves a wider audience than it'd had for most of its existence, and thanks to Second Run's excellent DVD release recently, is Highly Recommended Viewing..!
Amazon DVD Link [PAL]
The Nudity: Ildikó Bánsági
There is very little nudity in the film, but whatever there is very well done, and a beautiful Ildikó Bánsági dazzles against a predominantly grey canvass. There is also genuine chemistry between the lead actors that make their scenes enjoyable to watch.