English translation: Dávid Cseh
Sándor Somogyi (secret agent „Romeo”), 23
Michael Besenczy, 28
Erzsi Rózsa (secret agent „Puma”), around 35 years old, later on in a different role: Comrade Pataki
Judit Sárközi, 18
Lieutenant Horváth, 32
Set in Hungary, 1965.
Horváth It is in your best interest that we record you. This is why they call us State Security. If it weren’t for us, crime rates would go up, and people wouldn’t let their children out on the street. They would have to live in fear. Do you want that? (He starts observing the audience through the camera.) We archive all our recordings. They are stored, registered – we can pull them up at any time. We also file all our documents, we are building a system. These recordings and the reports written by our agents will be the keys to objective truth for posterity, and they will become a part of the history our children study in school. We have data on everyone so we can protect everyone. Nothing you do can surprise us, we know both your past and your future, everything can be deduced from this data. We protect you, and you pay for this protection with your data. Nothing in life is free. And we are constantly evolving. Someday in the future a camera set on every street corner will record everyone passing by, and our citizens will surrender their data freely. Until then: we have to take it by force.
And now, if you will allow me, this is my own personal credo: when doing state security work like this – we, all of us – can see the world from a unique perspective, through a special camera lens, in a way no one else can. We can gain insights into peoples’ private lives, their darkest secrets and desires. We can see behind their masks and lies. We get to understand them better than they understand themselves. We can see what little games people play with each other – just like in theater. But we must not be naïve! When you work in this field you come to realize that what is essential cannot be recorded in a report. You have to become close to people. This type of work can put a strain on you, it is a big responsibility, but we accept these difficulties in order to better ensure your security.
Michael Besenczy’s file was opened on the 29th of January, 1965 under the pseudonym “Cameraman”, because he had come to Hungary to study film direction at the Academy of Theater and Film Arts in Budapest. Besenczy lives in Great Britain, and we suspect that the only reason he came to Hungary was to spy for the British secret service. The Brits are probably paying him handsomely. Besenczy came to Hungary in his own automobile, and has worked as a chauffeur at many of his classmates’ film shoots. According to a report by the head of the academy registrars department, Besenczy is popular, and makes friends easily. This means he must be a valuable asset for the Brits.
Horváth Thank you for accepting my invitation.
Sándor You live here?
Horváth Why do you ask?
Sándor Strange apartment. Not a lot of furniture.
Horváth Not everyone likes crowded spaces.
(Horváth pours drinks, they clink glasses)
Sándor We can begin the interview if you want.
Horváth Of course. But I have a confession to make. I wasn’t honest with you the last time we met. I actually frequent that café a lot, and I’d seen you before. You didn’t notice me, but I noticed you. Usually you’re there with another guy, not the one who went to the toilet. Who’s the other one?
Sándor A classmate. His name is Michael.
Horváth A foreigner?
Sándor He’s British, but he can speak Hungarian.
Horváth I watched him, and thought he must be the type you can meet in parks at night. You know… where men go. He probably goes for walks in Népliget Park.
Sándor I don’t think so.
Horváth I have a keen eye for it.
Sándor He’s married.
Horváth That doesn’t matter. Have you seen them together?
Sándor She lives abroad. Never visited here.
Horváth So he can let loose without the wife.
Sándor That is not how he has fun.
Horváth Then how does he? Do tell!
Sándor He has girlfriends.
Horváth You don’t have a girlfriend?
Sándor I’m engaged.
Horváth See, there! And your fiancée doesn’t have a clue that you also like taking long walks.
Sándor I thought we were going to talk about movies.
Horváth Soon, soon. Actually, it’s not safe going on walks like that, you know. And don’t mind me, this is just the way I am: I like giving people advice. I just want to help. Parks are dangerous places. I’ve heard that some of them work in teams: they use secret signals, and all you notice at first is that another man is touching you. They’re very gentle, they don’t want to scare you away. When everyone is really getting in the mood, one of them will have the idea to go up to an apartment. Toyours, for example. They’ve already taken the reins, so even though you’re afraid, you still say yes. A lot of men have been beaten up and robbed like that, but no one will talk about it. Who could they talk to? The police? No one wants this to get out.
Sándor What has this got to do with me?
Horváth Did you know that they keep a database of such things? They might not catch you, but they do know about you. You are there in the police records. They’ve been keeping lists for years.
Sándor What kind of lists? Of who?
Horváth Of the gays, Sándor.
Sándor This is a misunderstanding. I’m not - (laughs)
Horváth Not what?
Sándor I’m not like that. I’m engaged.
Horváth There’s no connection between the two.
Sándor I haven’t even met anyone – of that persuasion.
Horváth It’s all there in black and white, Sándor. Anyone can pull up the file.
Sándor (tries to make light of it) Someone must have made a mistake.
Horváth Sándor, let’s not get into that. These are credible documents. We need these lists because we can only protect you all if we have this kind of information. There are two men, they are lovers, one kills the other: if we didn’t have this information on them where would we begin our investigation? We’re doing it for you. We keep you safe, but sometimes we need your help in return. It’s only fair.
Sándor But I really haven’t ever –
Horváth (interrupts) Friday last week at the Turkish bath at Rác Baths. 19th of March in the public toilet at Moszkva Square. 13th of March in the toilet near Erzsébet Bridge on the Buda side. The night on the 6th of March in Lukács Park, then the public toilet at Nyugati Railway Station. 19th of February, the showers at Palatinus Beach. 5th of February the public toilet at Moszkva Square, again. Should I call the others?
Sándor Who are you?
Horváth I’m asking for your help in an official capacity.
Sándor My help?
Horváth I’m very interested in a certain individual: Michael Besenczy. I want to chat with you about him from time to time, maybe once a week. We’ll go to a café, just sit and talk.
Sándor I don’t know what I could tell you about Besenczy. I don’t know him that well, we’re not close at all.
Horváth Our conversations might not be useful, and we won’t be meeting that often, but let’s not dismiss the possibility yet!
Sándor I – I’m not cut out for this kind of work. And I won’t have time for it because of the Academy.
Horváth I see. You know, we protect these lists. They are top secret – another way in which we protect you all. But if we feel that you are being ungrateful, maybe we won’t be as diligent. This information has to be kept safe, or, whoops, it could fly out into the world like a little bird. Whoops, it’s out there, everywhere. Pictures, anonymous letters in your fiancée’s or your mother’s postbox.
Sándor That can’t happen.
Horváth Yes, Sándor, that can’t happen. This is about how we can help each other.
Sándor Why are you investigating Misi?
Horváth I cannot give you information on that. Your cooperation would also come with financial benefits. You could travel anywhere you like.
Sándor I don’t want money. I won’t accept it.
Horváth We’re still only getting to know one another. Don’t be so melodramatic, Sándor! If you cooperate, you’ll get a nickname, just like in the theatre. What about “Romeo”?
Sándor Why „Romeo”?
Horváth You know very well. Do you accept?
Horváth Start observing Besenczy, and don’t believe everything he says! You will have to test him – that is the only way to the truth.
(song) Maybe no one can understand me, so please love me my dear!
Night falls, and I feel so alone, so please love me my dear!
Who could love a thorny, strange creature like me,
Who doesn’t know their own heart, and can’t smile prettily?
What will happen to me? The world is so big,
Let’s stick together, please love me my dear!
(prose) We will talk a lot about work done by a secret agent during our meetings. The security network operates in public spaces using fictive plots. We will hold our meetings mainly in cafés. If one of your acquaintances should recognize you, introduce me as an old friend of yours from your school days, and say we just met there by accident.
(song) Who could love a thorny, strange creature like me,
Who doesn’t know their own heart, and can’t smile prettily?
What will happen to me? The world is so big,
Let’s stick together, please love me my dear!
Horváth I can report that according to Mrs. Marcsika Ferencné Varga, the owner of the buffet at the Academy, “Cameraman” is dissatisfied with his current apartment and is in search of a new one. On the 5th of April 1965 I met with agent “Romeo” on Svábhegy and introduced him to Mrs. Józsefné Kárász who we have known for some time now and know to be reliable.
Sándor I know Mrs. Kárász through my father’s relatives, and they’re the ones who told me about the apartment.
Michael I really like that it has its own entrance. But why is it so cheap? The view is great, it’s like we’re looking over the city from the top of Mt. Gellért.
Horváth According to Mrs. Kárász “Cameraman” wanted to talk about costs immediately, and was suspicious of how cheap the rent was. Mrs. Kárász replied that she did not want to take advantage of poor guest students from abroad, and will only let the apartment to those she takes a liking to.
Michael A really rich family must have lived here in the past. The house has become a bit run down since then. Why do you think they have a ceramic stove here?
Sándor So you can heat the room.
Michael Of course, but why is it standing in front of a fireplace?
Sándor Because they couldn’t get the fireplace to work, I guess.
Michael I like this building.
Sándor Yes, it’s a bit like a haunted house.
Michael It has a peculiar atmosphere, but it’s interesting.
Horváth “Cameraman” asked Mrs. Kárász about the history of the building. Mrs. Kárász replied that she does not know much about that, she only moved in five years before with her son who is a leatherworker. A Jewish family lived there before the World War, but they died in Auschwitz. This fact did not discourage “Cameraman”, on the contrary, he became more enthusiastic.
Michael There isn’t a lot of furniture here.
Sándor It wouldn’t be worth buying any.
Michael I could ask around, borrow a couple of things.
Sándor I could help.
Michael It would take a bit longer to get to the Academy from here.
Sándor The trip must be forty minutes at least.
Michael I could spend the time thinking about my projects.
Sándor You’re right.
Michael There is a bit of a draft.
Sándor You catch colds easily.
Michael I could stuff something in the holes. And there’s a nice ceramic stove here too.
Sándor I don’t know.
Michael Don’t you like the atmosphere?
Horváth Mr. Kárász said that “Romeo” communicated in a contradictory manner, and seemed to dissuade “Cameraman” multiple times.
Sándor I didn’t say that. It’s a really nice apartment.
Michael Don’t you think it’s a good idea to rent it?
Sándor If you’re unsure…
Michael I’m asking for your opinion.
Sándor I was really glad when I heard about this apartment. You’ve been complaining about yours, so I thought…
Michael Yes. Which is why I’m going to rent it.
Sándor (whispers) Are you sure?
Michael What’s the matter, Sanyi?
Sándor I just don’t want you to make the wrong decision. Now that you’re moving.
Horváth Mrs. Kárász reported that at one point they huddled together, whispering to each other.
Michael Why are you so nervous? Worst case scenario is I have to look for another one.
Sándor Okay, Misi, rent this one then!
Michael We’ll hold a party to celebrate.
Horváth I asked Mrs. Kárász to never complain when he has visitors. She replied that: „They can come, they’re young, I understand. But I don’t want any trouble here.” I told Mrs. Kárász that we would visit sometimes – she then offered us a key to the apartment.
Sándor (aside) I can report that Misi went to the apartment and chose to rent it. We visited my mother during the weekend and spent a day there. Misi really enjoyed himself, he went riding, after which he had difficulty sitting down for a couple of days.
Horváth I instructed „Romeo” to invite “Cameraman” to Restaurant Budagyöngye, introduce him to his fiancée, and observe his reactions.
Michael I’ve asked Sanyi to introduce us more than once, but he kept you hidden away. So I asked him, what, are you ashamed of this girl?
Sándor You know that Judit is preparing for the entrance exam.
Judit I’ve also told him it would be good to meet – he talks about you all the time.
Michael What does he say?
Judit Well... only positive things.
Michael (to Sándor) So you lie to her.
Sándor I didn’t want to badmouth you.
Michael I hear you want to be a painter. What do you paint?
Judit What kind of topics, you mean?
Michael What interests you?
Judit I am taking an art class. In the beginning we worked with drapes, we did still lifes, and now we do landscapes.
Michael You don’t paint people?
Judit I’ve painted people, but it’s not my strong suit – yet.
Michael I’ve modelled for painting students in Britain many times. In the nude.
Judit We haven’t done nudes yet.
Michael It was interesting to see the paintings afterwards – especially how they painted the cock. In great detail, or just sketches, using sensual colors, maybe just show it as a dead stump – these choices tell you a lot about the painter.
Judit I wouldn’t be made uncomfortable by that. I’d paint it the way I saw it. The way I saw the person themselves.
(music in the background)
(to Sándor) Want to dance?
Sándor Not now.
Michael I’d love to dance, (to Sándor) if it’s alright with you.
Judit (they make to go, but she turns to Sándor) Are you sure?
(Judit and Michael slow dance)
Michael How did you two meet?
Judit Sanyi didn’t tell you?
Judit At a film club. He organized it. He knows so much about movies, and his eyes are so bright when he talks about them. I was the one to make the first move – strange, I know. I went to him, asked him some questions… He really didn’t tell you any of this?
Michael Not in detail.
Judit Does he talk about me?
Judit Do you know why not?
Michael You should ask him.
Judit He doesn’t like talking about emotions. It’s the way he was raised. Did you know his father went to prison in the fifties? He became a kind of hobo after that, even though he’d served in the army before. Sanyi’s mother tried to help, but then she gave up and moved to the country. So Sanyi lives with his father now. One time he went home and found his father with another woman, it was very awkward. He didn’t tell you this either?
Michael This he did.
Judit Do you think he’s in love with me?
Michael You’re his fiancée, aren’t you?
Sándor (aside) I can report that Misi and Judit met each other and didn’t talk about anything of importance, just topics such as art, philosophy and sports. They got on very well. No talk of politics.
(Michael and Judit are back in their seats)
Michael I didn’t forget about you during my last trip to Vienna. (takes out a package and gives it to Judit) Sanyi said you wanted this.
Judit I really needed the toothpaste. And the stock cubes too.
Sándor Agusztiner hair lotion?
Michael Took me a while to find it, but I did.
Sándor You shouldn’t have. Thank you.
Michael You have to look good if you want to marry a beautiful girl like this. (to Judit) I told Sanyi that he should find a girl he could really love. And I trust my friend because Sanyi’s eyes cannot lie.
(Horváth suddenly asks a question from Judit)
Horváth Did he say anything about why he came here?
Judit Excuse me?
Horváth Did he tell Sándor anything about why he came to Hungary?
Judit He said that he couldn’t have studied filmmaking this cheap anywhere else.
Horváth Did Besenczy ever bring you a package from abroad?
Judit Yes, he brought me something from Vienna. What, is he a smuggler?
Horváth Could be. Did he tell you anything about what he was doing in Vienna?
Judit He went to get his car fixed. He told Sanyi that he walked around the city all day, bored. Lala, why are you asking me all these questions about him? Is there something more to him?
Horváth I only know as much as you do. How are things with Sándor?
Judit We love each other very much. We’re getting married soon.
Horváth Alright, if you see or hear anything suspicious, call me! (Judit makes to leave) Wait a minute! You do know that whatever we talk about has to stay between us? Sándor can’t know.
Judit Dad will want to know why you wanted to see me.
Horváth We’re family, aren’t we? I’m just curious about how you’re doing. You’re graduating from high school this year, right? Where do you want to go?
Judit The Hungarian University of Fine Arts.
Horváth Do you have any contacts there?
Judit No, I don’t. But I wouldn’t accept help anyway.
Horváth You should if you want to get in. Tell your father we talked about your entrance exam. That I want to help.
Judit You appear out of the blue to help… Bit difficult to believe.
Horváth He won’t want to press the issue. And I really can talk to someone in the committee. You just have to ask.
Horváth I’m sure you’re aware that no one is to know about the duties I assign you or what we talk about. Not even your head officer.
Horváth (aside) On the 5th of May in 1965 I had a meeting in the Mézes Mackó Café with police lieutenant Hegedűs who works at Budapest Police Headquarters, and took charge of agent “Puma”, one Erzsébet Rózsa. (to Erzsi) You will have to get close to Michael Besenczy, a Western citizen, in order to gain access to any possible incriminating information. You will have to gain his trust so he’ll open up to you. Don’t let him take you up to his apartment. Hold off on that as long as you can.
Erzsi Should I tell him I’m a virgin?
Horváth Something he would believe! If it should come up, just tell him you’re ashamed to talk about such matters. If Besenczy should become impatient, allow him do this or that. But don’t go all the way.
Erzsi Could you tell me what you think I should do then? I really don’t want to mess up.
Horváth Allow him to touch you if you have to. Handjobs are permitted, but only in the worst-case scenario. No blowjobs. If something has to happen, just act like you’re drunk, and that is why you are allowing his advances. Be sure to be home between 12PM and 19PM on the 9th of May, and between 9AM and 8PM on the 10th of May, dressed for a trip. We will probably take you on a car ride. How can we contact you most easily?
Erzsi They disconnected my landlord’s phone line – he’s in police custody – so a telegram or personal meeting would be best.
Horváth On the two aforementioned days either I or someone else will visit you at home. If it’s not me, after greeting you they will say “if you want to we could go for a drive, I’m free.” You’ll treat them like an old acquaintance, and go with them. Then you’ll take a car and we will follow the target to Balassagyarmat where he is to take part in the filmshoot of a classmate. We’ll drop you off at the hospital, where you’ll have to wait for them so you can ask them for a ride back to Budapest later. Please repeat what I have said so far!
Erzsi Going on a ride, Balassagyarmat, hospital.
Horváth Here is some background: you came to Balassagyarmat to visit your grandmother who is battling cancer, but they told you at the hospital that complications had arisen, so they had to transfer her to the hospital on Kék Golyó Street in Budapest. So grandmother with cancer, complications, Kék Golyó Street. Behave in a humble, quiet, cultured way.
Erzsi I will follow your instructions.
Horváth Great. (reading a newspaper)
Erzsi (pointing to the front page) She’s really pretty, I really like her.
Horváth Is there something else?
Erzsi You don’t remember me? We’ve met before.
Erzsi About three years ago, at the police department in Kaposvár when they took me into custody. You interrogated me.
Horváth I see.
Erzsi I was surprised to see you again. I’m glad it turned out like this.
Erzsi That we’re meeting in a café and not in prison. I moved to Budapest more than two years ago, how long have you been here?
Horváth I only want to talk to you about the case, so let’s not discuss personal matters.
Erzsi I heard things about you back then, Lajos. But I didn’t believe any of it, you have to know that.
Horváth Erzsébet, I really hope that you’ll do everything in your power to complete your assignment. For our old friendship’s sake.
Sándor (aside) I can report that I’m doing everything I can to avoid Misi. I’d rather run from him than inform on him. Who am I talking to? And who is saying all this? (to Horváth) The waiter said it’s last call for drinks, they’re closing soon, so you guys can leave – want to order something? I could use another drink.
Horváth I think you’ve had enough.
Sándor Look, almost everyone’s left! It seemed crowded just a while ago – and now we’re almost alone. They’re putting the tables away.
Horváth You don’t have any more information on Besenczy?
Sándor We don’t talk as much these days. I keep trying to meet up with him, for your sake at least, but he keeps, you know, avoiding me. I’m not interesting enough anymore, I guess.
Horváth I don’t think that that is the case, Sándor.
Sándor One day he just started patronizing me, and he became so arrogant. I don’t think he’ll want to help with my film shoot at Lake Balaton anymore. Even though he promised.
Horváth Who is this woman he’s seeing?
Horváth Erzsi who?
Sándor We met her in Balassagyarmat, she seemed a bit out of it, and asked us whether we could give her a ride home. Paid a lot of attention to Misi.
Horváth How does Besenczy feel about her?
Sándor She’s pretty, Misi likes them pretty. But he still feels she’s not genuine. She is a real tease. He brought her a lot of nylon stockings from Vienna, to which she said he should bring her more next time, because she wants to give some to her girlfriends! He bought me a pack of Austrian chewing gum, the cheapest kind.
Horváth So you didn’t take to her.
Sándor Not really, no. (pause) It’s a pleasant evening. Quiet. The streets are empty. Which way do you go home?
Horváth We will have to go via separate routes as per regulations.
Sándor I don’t really care about all this. But it’s hard to cope with this sense of foreignness.
Horváth They’re going to lock up with us still inside. We should go.
Sándor Don’t you want to go for a walk?
Horváth Where do you want to go?
Sándor To a nearby park maybe. A little fresh air would do us good – (meets Horváth’s gaze for a length of time)
Horváth Sándor, what are you doing?
Sándor You want it too. I can see it in your eyes.
Horváth You’re drunk.
Horváth I can’t help you.
Sándor I’ve been doing the best I can!
Horváth Go and find someone else!
Sándor And if I want it to be you?
Horváth What do you want?
Sándor Tobe together for a little while. Tokiss. I know you want to.
Horváth You don’t know what I want.
Sándor Let me suck it.
Horváth I’m here in an official capacity. Seems like you’ve forgotten.
Sándor Son of a bitch!
Horváth You’ve been doing the best you can? You’re not trying at all. Just wasting my time. It’s no use listening to you, you bore me. You haven’t given me anything, not about the Brits, the CIA, I only get to listen to you talk about your pathetic, gay feelings. I’m not your mother.
Sándor I don’t enjoy our meetings either, you know.
Horváth Do you want to lose everything? A word from me, and they’ll kick you out of the Academy.
Sándor I’m sorry. I’ll do better in the future. (he wants to embrace Horváth, but the other man pushes him away)
Horváth Pull yourself together!
Szabolcs Fényes – Péter Bacsó: Te szeress legalább (Please Love Me My Dear)