You know that the story of a woman being kept essentially as a slave in contemporary Hungary is going to be hard-hitting. Filmmaker Bernadett Tuza-Ritter does an outstanding job of inserting us right into the exhausting day-to-day existence of Marish.
Marish is 53 but looks 20 years older. She works a 12-hour day at a factory and then cooks and cleans and does whatever Eta, the matriarch of the home where she lives, tells her to do. Eta takes her scant wages and gives her “as many cups of coffee a day that she wants” and also tobacco, convinced of the bounty of this largesse. She isn’t given meals and surreptitiously eat scraps from the families’ plates when she clears them. Marish’s 16-year-old daughter fled the home, unable to handle the conditions and brutality. She is now in State care.
Tuza-Ritter had to pay Eta to have access to film Marish and, through their interactions over more than a year, we see a trust slowly build, with Marish talking more and more openly about her life. We never see Eta’s face, at her request, but her manicured nails and rasping voice are a constant, malevolent presence. The camera is kept claustrophobicly close, partly to ensure only Marish is filmed but also to pull us in close to her ravaged face. It’s a tragic face but also one of stoicism and resilience. She has a sense of humour and explains that she laughs when she feels like crying.
With fearful glances, Marish whispers that she has a plan to escape and Tuza-Ritter is there every step of the way. The tension is palpable and we get a good sense of how precarious Marish’s situation is.
It’s not all gloom and doom and it’s not too much of a spoiler to say there is some hope for Marish. I shed some tears at the end. What is more sobering is the thought that this is just one woman, how many others are out there trapped in slavery, right under our nose? I feel helpless to make a difference but I’ll make it donation to an organisation that fights human slavery and trafficking like a21.org or stopthetraffik.org rather than just write about it.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.