Hungarian filmmaker István Szabó is perhaps best-known for his Oscar-winning effort Mephisto (1981) and subsequent international productions including Sunshine (1999) and Being Julia (2004). Now arriving on DVD is one of his Hungarian films made prior to his international success; Confidence (Bizalom, 1980).
The plot sees two strangers thrown together in Budapest during the Second World War as they hide from the fascist authorities. Kata (Ildikó Bánsági) is a housewife spirited away from her home after her husband is revealed to be part of the resistance. She is ensconced with another of their number who is also in need of hiding, János (Péter Andoral), under the guise of being a refugee couple living with elderly landlords that are unknowingly sheltering them.
Unlike his earlier films with non-linear narratives and historical allegory, Confidence is a straightforward chronological depiction of events which sees the two protagonists having to adjust to living together whilst both missing the families that they have been torn from. With melodramatic overtones it deals primarily with the possibility of a burgeoning romance between the two as they battle against the film’s central theme; mistrust.
Shot in icy blues and stark whites, Confidence creates a cold atmosphere which echoes the characters reluctance to engage with or trust one another. János in particular is consumed by the idea that everyone and everything is treacherous and although we are made privy to the reasons behind his recalcitrance Kata never is. As they embark on the beginnings of a love affair and other people begin to enter their contained world, the suspicions of both begin to take on new elements as they doubt each others faith; Kata unsure if János is sneaking out to see other women, János mistrustful even of his friends.
Confidence’s problem seems to lie in its lack of real narrative drive as although it posits interesting questions it does drag through certain sections and feels somewhat longer than its 105 minute runtime. With a slightly tighter screenplay there may have been more opportunity to explore the characters’ interactions with the wider world but in staying in their one-room bedsit for vast swathes it feels vaguely overstretched. This is not aided by the fact that the performances are adequate, not outstanding.
The themes of love, trust and fidelity are all neatly concluded in its pitch-perfect ending with the irony of Kata’s inability to prove her true identity lost on nobody. If only the middle third had been structured as well Szabó could have had a much better film on his hands.