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István Szabó Edit Profile

Film director

Istvan Szabo has emerged as one of the most important Hungarian filmmakers of the 20th Century.


Szabó, István was born on June 6, 1971 in Tirgu-Mures, Romania. Arrived in United States, 1998, permanent resident, 2003. Son of István and Ilona Szabó.


István Szabó graduated as a film director from Hungary's prestigious Academy of the Art of Theatre and Film.


After making several short films, at 26 he went on to direct his first feature film, The Age of Daydreaming (1964). It won the Silver Sail for Best First Work at the 1965 Locarno International Film Festival and a Special Jury Prize for Best Director at the Hungarian Film Festival. Over the next 40 years he would receive many more awards and nominations, including: Special Jury Prize, Locarno and Best Director from the Hungarian National Film Festival for Father (1966); Golden Leopard and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Locarno for 25 Fireman's Street (1973), Silver Berlin Bear and Academy Award nomination for Confidence (1980); FIPRESCI Best Screenplay Award at Cannes and Film Critics Awards from Britain, Italy and Poland for Mephisto (1981); BAFTA award for Best Foreign Language Film and Cannes Special Jury Prize for Colonel Redl (1985); Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film for Hanussen (1988); Silver Bear, Berlin and European Screenwriter Award for Sweet Emma, Dear Böbe (1992); Golden Globe nomination, Genie nomination and Writers Guild of Canada award for Sunshine (1999) and Best Director at the Mara del Plata Film Festival for Taking Sides (2001). His latest film, Being Julia (2004), starring Annette Bening and Jeremy Irons, won rave reviews when it opened at the Toronto International Film Festival.



Szabó’s early films—culminating in Lovefilm and 25 Fireman Street—were influenced by the French New Wave in their experimentation with flashbacks, dream sequences, and unconventional narrative structures built on these techniques.

Szabó emphasizes iconography in his films, insofar as he tends to invest certain objects and places with symbolic meaning. Tram cars play this role in many of his films, and one becomes the central image in Budapest Tales. Budapest itself plays an important role in many of his films, including scenes of the Danube and of buildings Szabó lived in when he was a child.

Acting also plays a key role in Szabó’s films, as he values psychological complexity in his central characters. In his first several features, he tended to use the same lead actors over and over—first András Bálint, then Klaus Maria Brandauer. Consistent with this focus on acting, he frequently employs long close-up shots to emphasize the play of emotions on the faces of his characters.


István Szabó

Ilona Szabó