Sweet Emma, Dear Böbe
Time Out saysSzabó's return to Hungary after Meeting Venus resulted in this almost heart-breaking account of a country in transition; an intimate portrait which may lack the production values of lavish period dramas like Mephisto and Colonel Redl, but which exerts a subtle pressure and exposes raw wounds. The story revolves around two women, Budapest-based teachers of Russian who find their skills useless in a post-Communist society and adopt English as their speciality, practising consonants and staying only one step ahead of their students. Emma (Ter Steege in a striking performance) is unhappy about her married, vacillating lover, while Böbe picks up rich foreign men. As they share a room in a hostel, their friendship withstands disturbing revelations and differences which remain unfathomable. Portraying a society where anger and exploitation have replaced mediocrity, Szabó's sensitive handling of the material culminates in a meditative passage in which Emma stands in church, musing on the 'passion for love' which masks lack of purpose. 'Collective sin' may be dead, according to Böbe, but this movingly delineates the private pain of atonement.