Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Film Review: Bizalom

"Bizalom" **** (out of ****)

You can see why a movie like the Hungarian film "Bizalom (Confidence, 1980)" would have interested a filmmaker such as Istvan Szabo and why a Hungarian audience would be able to relate to it.

"Bizalom" is a film where people live in a world of secrets and lies. Wandering eyes are forever upon you. You can't even trust your neighbor. There is a constant fear of being outed and reported to the government.

The film takes place during WW2 and deals with the anti-Nazi resistance in Hungary. However the film was made while Hungary was under the control of communist. During both periods people had the same fears. It was not unusual during the communist era for friends or family to report one another as enemies of the state, especially when your life was in danger. This WW2 story could be seen as a subtle commentary on the current times in Hungary in the 1980s.

Much of "Bizalom" is about deception. The movie starts off with a newsreel about bombs. Different bombs make different sounds. A true expert can sometimes tell which type of bomb is being dropped just by the sound. However, relying on this method is not often best. Sometimes sounds can be manipulated due to outside factors. By the time you may recognize the sound of the bomb, it's too late.

Istvan Szabo's film takes that element of deception and follows a woman, Kata (Ildiko Bansagi), who discovers her husband (Lajos Balazsovits) is part of the underground anti-Nazi resistance movement. For her protection, she and her husband must be separated. She is sent to live with another member of the movement, Janos (Peter Andorai), where they must pretend to be husband and wife. Janos has found shelter living with an elderly couple (Oszkarne Gombik and Karoly Csaki) who takes in refugees. Janos feels their every step is being watched by this couple.

The English title for the film, confidence, does not mean arrogance or high self-esteem. Confidence in this context means trust. Taking someone into your confidence. Can these two people, Kata and Janos, come to trust one another? Are both of them really part of the resistance? Is one of them a secret agent? Can they depend on one another to protect each other from the elderly couple living with them? Can Janos trust Kata not to contact her husband and blow their cover? Can Kata trust Janos not to contact his own wife?

Pretty soon, after living so closely together, an attraction develops between Kata and Janos. They say they have fallen in love with each other. And so "Bizalom" now takes on themes of love and loyalty. Loyalty to the movement, loyalty to each other and loyalty to their spouses.

These themes aren't entirely new for Istvan Szabo. His previous films such as "Love Film (Szerelmesfilm, 1971)" also dealt with loyalty, in that case loyalty to Hungary and love and memories. Some of his other films also used history as a backdrop, "25 Firemen Street (Tuzolto utca 25, 1973)" dealt with WW2 and communist.

Szabo is probably the best known Hungarian filmmaker in America. His work was part of the Hungarian new wave of the late 1960s and 70s, along with Karoly Makk and Miklos Jancso. "Bizalom" was the first film Szabo made which showed real cross-over appeal. It was the first of five films which Szabo would make which received an Academy Award nomination for best foreign language film. Szabo's next film to be nominated, "Mephisto" (1982) would win the award. Making it the only Hungarian film to win in the category.

But for all the praise I may throw at "Bizalom" it doesn't matter. In America the film has not been put on DVD. I bought a region 2 DVD from the UK. The distributor Second Run has released the film on DVD.

"Bizalom" is a strong film due to the emotions it creates. The feelings of lost and love the characters are able to project. We can sense they are alone. Much of the film takes place in their small bedroom. The only room in the house where they may have privacy. They are completely shut out from the world. They may cling to each other not because they love one another but because they have nothing else. This element of desperation comes through due to their performances and the cinematography.

I wish the film would find an audience in America. But is seems unlikely. If it hasn't been put on DVD yet, a few years after it was released in the UK, what would prompt someone to release it now? It is a Hungarian movie after all. Most Americans couldn't find Hungary on a map. Why should they want to watch a movie from a country they've never heard of?

Still, for those adventurous cinematic souls out there "Bizalom" is a powerful experience. One of Szabo's great works.