A short excerpt from the booklet essay by Catherine Portuges.
One of the most influential and admired European filmmakers of the postwar period, Szabó directed fifteen films before the release of Confidence including Father (Apa, 1966); Lovefilm (Szerelmesfilm, 1970); 25 Fireman's Street (Tűzoltó utca 25., 1973); and Budapest Tales (Budapesti mesék, 1976). Sunshine (A Napfény ize, 1999), an epic examination of the vicissitudes of assimilation in the lives of successive generations of a Hungarian Jewish family from the late 19th century to the mid-1960s, constitutes an important marker in Szabó's career: its personal perspective draws upon elements from Father, which addresses the traumatic loss of a father, drawn from Szabó's own experience, and a generation of Hungarians who came of age in an era that included the deportations of Hungarian Jews, WWII, the Communist takeover and subsequent nationalization, and the uprising of 1956. Sunshine's political elements are grounded as well in Mephisto and Colonel Redl, while its love story owes much to Confidence.
What Szabó has called the "Gestapo of suspicion" haunts the protagonists of Confidence, an existential exploration of the sequelae of risk and trust, of individual fate and sacrifices toward a common goal, that attempts to construct a coherent, autonomous universe rather more akin to that of fiction than to traditional film narrative. Set in the summer of 1944, the film's historical context is one of intense persecution, violence, chaos and confusion. The events of that period warrant a brief overview: of the 825,000 Jews living in Hungary in 1941, approximately 63,000 died or were killed before the German occupation of March 1944. During the occupation, over 500,000 died from maltreatment, were killed or deported. Some 255,000 Jews, or less than a third of those living in Greater Hungary in March 1944, survived the Shoah. The order of 5 April 1944 to wear the yellow star was the beginning of marginalization; on 3 May orders were issued to register apartments and houses in Budapest belonging to Jews, to prepare to concentrate them in selected buildings within the city. In mid-May 1944, the Hungarian authorities, in concert with the SS, began systematically deporting Hungarian Jews; Adolf Eichmann, chief deportation expert, worked with the Hungarian authorities. The Hungarian police proceeded to conduct raids, brutally forcing Jews into deportation trains. In less than two months, nearly 440, 000 Jews were deported from Hungary, the great majority to Auschwitz, although several thousand were also sent to the Austrian border into forced labor. By the beginning of July 1944, the only Jewish community remaining in Hungary was that of Budapest, the capital. As the distinguished historian István Deák has noted,"...the crimes perpetrated in 1944 are unredeemable and still haunt the nation." Some attempt to escape Nazi capture, others go into hiding to fight in the resistance, surrounded by the Hungarian collaborationist Arrow Cross Party – later replaced under Communism by the AVO.
The spectre of Nazi persecution and mounting fascist pressures bind together the two protagonists of Confidence - both resistance workers - for security reasons as Budapest is under siege:
"In my previous films, the social milieu, the outside world in which the story took place, was gradually built up around the characters. That's not the case here: the spectator observes virtually nothing but two people. There are, of course, minor characters who link the principals to the events around them, but essentially the story is concerned with a man and a woman, and with the development of the relationship between them. At the start of the film, the two meet for the first time, then learn progressively more about one another... I am convinced that many of society's ailments derive from feelings of insecurity and a lack of trust. It's the crucial basis for social as well as personal relations, mediating between the different generations, enabling them to transmit or assimilate historical experiences. This is why I wanted to tell a story about two people whose fear of one another prevents them from trusting each other, until this situation becomes unbearable for them and, through the mutual trust which develops they achieve a sense of happiness, albeit ephemeral. That was what I wanted my film to convey." (István Szabó)
Catherine Portuges’ complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the DVD release.
A short excerpt from the booklet
Time Out by Geoff Andrew
Sight & Sound by Michael Brooke
MovieMail by Michael Brooke
Digital Fix by Anthony Nield
E-Film Blog by Michael Ewins
DVD Beaver by Eric Cotenas
The Quiteus by Manish Agarwal
The Arts Desk by Tom Birchenough
Mondo Digital by Nathaniel Thompson
Bright Lights Film Journal by Gordon Thomas
The Jewish Week
New York Times
(i) World Cinema: Hungary
(ii) Interview with Szabó at Kinoeye
(ii) On Exile, Jewish Identity, and Filmmaking in Hungary: A Conversation with István Szabó
(iii) Transmitting the Past in Hungarian Cinema - An essay by Catherine Portuges
(iv) The German invasion of Hungary
(vi) Not a Victim: Tales of Survival in Nazi Budapest