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Cultural response to totalitarianism in select movies produced in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland between 1956 and 1989


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Cultural response to totalitarianism in select movies produced in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland between 1956 and 1989
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Robak, Kazimierz
University of South Florida
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Communist propaganda
Peter Bacso
Milos Forman
Jan Nemec
Istvan Szabo
Bela Tarrr
Andrzej Wajda
Janusz Zaorski
Dissertations, Academic -- Humanities -- Masters -- USF   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: This study examines resistance against totalitarian propaganda in select movies produced in regions subjected to Soviet-imposed totalitarian system. From 1939 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Central-Eastern Europe has experienced two of the most devastating and genocidal political systems in the history of the humankind. Nazism was destroyed with the end of WWII, and met widespread condemnation. Sovietism, commonly known as Communism, survived WWII and the Soviet totalitarian empire rose to the position of the world's second superpower. Effective and organized Soviet propaganda generated a new convincing image of Sovietism as a harmless, friendly and progressive system. In this situation, the extremely important role of maintaining moral consciousness has fallen to the artistic world, specifically film. The scope of my thesis is to explore and analyze the responses to the Soviet totalitarianism in movies produced in European states of the Soviet bloc, between 1956 and 1989.My thesis aims to offer a critical reading of the chosen movies as well as their historical and political conditions. I point out how filmmakers articulated their resistance and analyze it in the context of national culture. The movies I chose to discuss express the reality of everyday life during the Soviet era. Their dissection reflects the mutual influence of history and art in general and in the Soviet bloc in particular. Hence, I offer a reading of the past expressed in the subjective vision of the cinematographic art. Movies not only reflect certain fragments of the reality, they also play an important role in constructing a collective memory. Discussing them from this angle leads to an understanding of the current perception of the past in those countries.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
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Cultural Response to Totalitarianism in Se lect Movies Produced in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland between 1956 and 1989 by Kazimierz Robak A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Humanities and Cultural Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Maria Cizmic, Ph.D. Silvio Gaggi, Ph.D. Adriana Novoa, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 6, 2009 Keywords: bolshevism, communism, communi st propaganda, sovietism, film, peter bacso, milos forman, jan nemec, istvan szabo, bela tarrr, andrzej wajda, janusz zaorski Copyright 2009, Kazimierz Robak


Dedication To my wife Gra yna Walczak, my best friend, companion and love and to Olga, a wonderful daughter


Acknowledgements First and foremost I would like to thank my supervisor Professor Maria Cizmic, who has been an extraordinary advisor in th e best tradition of th is institution. She has given me guidance, support and inspiration by being knowledgeable and so patient with me and my wrestling with English grammar. Always available when needed she has been an abundant supply of suggestions of improvement s to this thesis at all levels of detail. Thank you for all of your time, patience a nd hard work. Without your efforts and kindness, this work would not and could not have been done and I certainly would not have been in the position to do it. The other members of my committee, Pr ofessor Adriana Novoa and Professor Silvio Gaggi both taught me an appreciation of critical perspectives. Thank you for your guidance in my research, and great seminars. I would like to offer sincere thanks to Jennifer Fiore and Sarah Challis, Office Managers of the Humanities & Cultural Depart ment, for their help and guidance in the labyrinth of rules and regulations during the course of the study. I especially thank my daughter Olga, who corrected many of my linguistic atrocities. Nonetheless, any errors are my own. Most of all I would like to thank my wife Gra yna Walczak, for her love, encouragement, advices, and understanding support while I pursued my educational studies. Without your aid, I would never be able to make this endeavor possible. I have been extremely lucky to meet you on my way. Thank you for being you.


i Table of Contents Abstract . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ii 1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1.1 Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1.2. Main Concepts and Theoretical Frames. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 2. Totalitarian System and Cultural Life in the Soviet Bloc . . . . . . . . . . 9 2.1. Historical Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 2.2. History, Resistance and Collective Memory . . . . . . . . . . . 11 2.3. History and Confrontation on th e Cultural Field . . . . . . . . . . 19 3. Response to Totalitarian Reality in Select Films . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 3.1. Hungary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 3.2. Czechoslovakia: Two Subversive Tendencies . . . .. . . . . . . . 38 3.3. Poland: Open Attack at the Hegemony . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 3.3.1. Historical Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 3.3.2. The Role of Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 3.3.3. Polish Films against Totalitarianism . . . . . . . . . . . 65 3.3.4. Men of Marble and Iron. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 4. Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91


ii Cultural Response to Totalitarianism in Se lect Movies Produced in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland between 1956 and 1989. Kazimierz Robak ABSTRACT This study examines resistance against tota litarian propaganda in select movies produced in regions subjected to S oviet-imposed totalitarian system. From 1939 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Central-Eastern Europe has experienced two of the most devastati ng and genocidal political systems in the history of the humankind. Nazism was de stroyed with the en d of WWII, and met widespread condemnation. Sovietism, co mmonly known as Communism, survived WWII and the Soviet totalitarian empire rose to the position of the world’s second superpower. Effective and organized Soviet propaga nda generated a new convincing image of Sovietism as a harmless, friendly and progressive system. In this situation, the extremely important role of maintaining moral cons ciousness has fallen to the artistic world, specifically film. The scope of my thesis is to explore and analyze the responses to the Soviet totalitarianism in movies produ ced in European states of the Soviet bloc, between 1956 and 1989. My thesis aims to offer a critical r eading of the chosen m ovies as well as their historical and political conditi ons. I point out how filmmakers articulated their resistance and analyze it in the context of national culture. The movies I chose to discuss express the reality of everyday life dur ing the Soviet era. Their di ssection reflects the mutual


iii influence of history and art in general and in the Soviet bloc in particular. Hence, I offer a reading of the past expressed in the subjective vision of the cinematographic art. Movies not only reflect certain fragments of the rea lity, they also play an important role in constructing a collective memory. Discussi ng them from this angle leads to an understanding of the curren t perception of the past in those countries.


1 1. Introduction 1.1. Objectives Countries of Central and East ern Europe, for nearly half a century after WWII had to survive under the reins of post WWII Soviet to talitarianism. To preserve their national identity and resist a “new” history fabricat ed by the imposed sy stem, they developed mechanisms and systems of resistance agai nst omnipotent totalita rian propaganda and indoctrination. The cinema played extrem ely important role in this process. The entire region of Centra l and Eastern Europe had a similar history, similar constraints and similar possibilities of developm ent, dictated by thei r hegemon. One of the rules of the system was a revi sionist history, which included erasing facts uncomfortable for the regime from history books and collective memory. The same rules applied to filmmaking. Because film is a form of art that reaches the widest audience it also became an important weapon. By reaching pr actically everyone, it shaped the consciousness of th e viewer very effectively. Some of the film makers decided to compromise repeating the government approved format. Nonetheless, it was works by the directors who did not give into the regime but openly challenged it, oppo sed the propaganda, questioned the dogmas and by touching on the subjects omitted by the official propaganda engag movies forced the audience to think critically. The formation of such ideas as the Po lish “cinema of moral anxiety” and the Czech and Slovak new wave films or the neosymbolism in Hungarian fi lms was not an accident – it was a reaction of great artists to a situation that threatened nation al identity. At this critical


2 point, movie directors cr eated a language of im plications, which they used to communicate with audiences over the seemingly omnipotent censure. The artists won the battle – the widespread defiance started by “Solidarity” in 1980 would never have concluded in the overthrowing of the regime and full democratiz ation in the years 1989-1 990 if the art of film had not shaped the national consciousn ess and taught crit ical thinking. The purpose of this work is to show th e influence of histor ical events on the development of artistic oppositi on to the regime and the conditio ns that aided or hindered the production of films, which atta cked the Soviet syst em. The political situa tion and th e ebb and flow of cultural thaw were different in each satellite country but it is easiest to see the common denominator looking at the development of cinematogr aphy in thre e countries: Czechoslovakia, Pola nd and Hungary. In each case, there was a threat of military intervention by the Soviet army, which only Poland managed to escape. Biographies, monographs critiques, and reviews of film s by artists such as Stanis aw Bareja, Miloš Forman, Jan N mec, Istvn Szab or Andrzej Wa jda are in the hundreds if not thousands. Their films have been analyzed multiple times from many points of view. Research has been done on film techniques, editing, artistic valu e of screenplays and photographic work, aesthetic va lues and social an d political involvement However, a vast majority of these studies analyzed the works of these artists indivi dually and separately. Attempts at a synthesis in rela tion to what connects these arti sts the most – the historical reality in which they were creat ing and their role in directing their viewer’s op inions against the totalitarian system and educa tion of younger genera tion – are so far scar ce in general and nonexistent on the academic research level.


3 This is why my work will not be concerned with things usually expected in the case of film analysis. There will be no formal anal ysis discussing techniques and innovative shots. There will be no ar tistic analysis, judging ae sthetics frame by frame. Instead, I will give a description of how these films influenced co llective memory, analyz e their reverberation throughout the communi ty, and describe the ro le they took in the establishment of national consciousness. This is th e reason why I place Stanis aw Bareja, creator of light comedies that critics often treat with contempt in the same line as with th e philosophers of film such as Wajda, Forman or Szab. Film is a mass art – it was created for the ma sses and still relies mainly on mass reception. Even the greatest cinematic works, if they are not received widely enough, will remain know n only to a small group of critics and connoisseurs while dying in collective consciousness. In film, unlike any ot her art form, th e audience “votes with their legs,” that’s why it is importa nt not only who made the film but also how many people saw it and what impact it had on the public, which ofte n has nothing to do with reviews from critics. This paper consists of four pa rts. In the current part, foll owing the presentation of the goals and the character of my i nvestigation, I explain the princi pal concepts us ed in the body of the text, and mention briefl y the theoretical frames on whic h I support my hypothesis. I focus on the theories of Maurice Halbwach s, Eric Hobsbawm an d Terence Ranger. The second chapter presents a hi storical and political back ground of Soviet-imposed totalitarianism and its impa ct on cultural life in the Soviet bloc. In this part I show how the satellite states manipulated th e collective memory a nd how it affected the development of national movie industries in these countries. In the next chapter, “Response to Totalitarian Reality in Select Films,” I examine twelve m ovies produced in Czec hoslovakia, Hungary and Poland between 1956 and 1989. These fi lms do not exhaust the topic of the cinematographic


4 counter-discourse in the shaping of collective c onsciousness, but are seen as examples of the response to the hegemonic disc ourse. In the conclusion, draw ing on these anal yses, I point out the relationship between histor y, memory and artistic expression in movi es that dealt with the Soviet-imposed reality. 1.2. Main Concepts an d Theoretical Frames During the 20th century, western civilizat ion had to deal with two totalitarian systems: Fascism and Sovietism.1 Fascism formed in Italy and succeeded as a statewide system when Benito Mussolin i assumed power in 1922 (Payne 110). Its extreme form as National Socialism (Nazism) be came statewide when the NSDAP under the rule of Hitler, won the election in Germany in 1933. The en d of Fascism and Nazi sm came in 1945 in Europe, with th e end of WWII (Payne 436).2 Sovietism in its primary form became a statew ide system in 1917, after the success of the October revoluti on. Formally, it lasted until December 1991, until the collapse of the USSR. During these 74 years, it evolved many times, but it never stopped being a homicidal totalitarian system legalizing imperial politics of the USSR both at home and abroad. Among many definitions of Fa scism and Sovietism, I back the one that was independently given by Hannah Arendt, a political theore tician, and Zb igniew Brzezi ski, a 1 I use this term as an all-inclusive umbrella which covers Bolshevism, Marxism (Marxism-Leninism, Marxism-Stalinism etc.), Stalinism, Socialism, Communism, Real Communism, People’s Democracy – because none of these by themselves covers the entirety of a system intr oduced, developed, backed and forced upon people, which was the main doctrine of the country known as the Soviet Union. 2 The only fascist country, which survived past WWII in Europe, was Spain. It was neutral during the war, keeping its distance from the other countries of Wester n Europe, and began the process of defascization in 1942. It lasted until Francisco Franco’s death in 1975, upon which the Bourbon monarchy was restored. (Payne 435) In Portugal, during the military dictatorship of Antonio Salazar installed in 1928 and active until the Carnation Revolution of 1974, Fa scism played no role and “Salazar pe rsonally rejected the support of a fascist movement” (Payne 312-317).


5 political scientist, both of whom claim that Fascism an d Sovietism are two sides of the totalitarian coin. Differences between them are far less significant3 than simila rities: a oneparty system based on the dictat orship of a mass part y and its charismatic leader, state control of economy, media and arme d forces, terror, hatred based on the racist or social background executed by the secret political police (Arend t 389). The end of WWII, which brought about the end of Fascism, became simultaneously th e beginning of a nearly half century long expansion of Sovietism. After the war, the USSR advanced to become a superpower, with the help of its Americ an and British allies, an d began an unpardonable ideological, military and territorial rivalry with the United States a nd other western democracies. After WWII, societies of Central Europe were subj ected to various and thorough changes. The war caused migrations and pertur bations of demographic and social structures. In the postwar period, the So viet occupants deepened these processes by deportations, relocations, and expulsions, and enforced pr omoting the lower classe s by eradicating and physically exterminatin g the upper classes. They also commenced changing collective memory by teaching historical lies, promoting a version of the past most favorable to the USSR and the Soviet syst em or, in other words, by rewriting history. These efforts, planned in detail as a long an d arduous campaign, were particularly dangerous for dominated nations. Memory – according to the French philosoph er and sociologist, Maurice Halbwachs4 – is a means of persistence, and if “to be” means to persist, then reco llection always oc curs within a group as a social act. In other words, huma n beings remember with in the community. When 3 Among differences, there are: a model of economy (mar ket versus centrally mana ged), nationalism versus Internationalism. Some features were opposed only theore tically, because of open lies hypocritically promoted by the Soviet system regardless a fait accompli: elitism and racism claimed by Nazis was counterbalanced by the officially propagated egalitarian slogans necessity of e xpansion hence the war wa s opposed by the Soviet principles of war for peace, etc. 4 Halbwachs, Maurice. On Collective Memory The University of Chicago Press, 1992.


6 these links are in terrupted and possibilities of social acts ar e limited, controlle d and regulated, the collective memory – hence nationa l identity – is seri ously endangered. Censorship and careful selection of teac hers on all levels left social scie nces (among them history) was under strict government administration. Be sides the past taught by the official history, howev er, there is also a past held in people’s memor y. The state-owned history could manipulate facts and events. Memory wa s later taken over an d adapted by those who realized the seriousness of sustaining historical continuity and the dangers of manipulating it, film makers among them. The change of the percep tion of memory and history was nothing out of the ordinary. In an influential study Invention of Tradition published by two British historians Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger5, one can find arguments that the change of the perception of memory and history occurred with the beginning of m odernity. Essays of many researchers included in the book show th e strategies of the fabrication of collective memories. Their central idea is that many co mmunities presume traditions that identify them as nations or groups, distinguish them from other groups and justify their existence and importance, but not all of these traditions are what they appear to be: many of them have been invented quite recently. In the Sovi et Union – whose practic es are not examined in Hobsbawm’s book – such techniques were in use since 1917. The combination of powerful state propaganda, political terror, ph ysical extermination of oppositionists and willful or obstructive individuals turned out to be successful in an ultimate result of reformulating official hist ory and collective memory. 5 Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger, eds. The Invention of Tradition Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.


7 Historians, scientists, theoreticians and artist s, or the “engineers of the human soul,” as Stalin referred to them, working under the cont rol and for the totalitarian system, were openly fabricating conven ient facts, misquoting sources, forging documen ts, retouching photographs, altering interpreta tions, according to actual po litical trends and currents. Creating history was turn ed into a state-run industry, using all means, media and methods.6 The state attempted to include the movie industry into its propagandistic machine. However, several filmmakers foun d ways of presenting a differe nt approach to the forbidden past and the silenced present. By reflecting certain fragments of real ity, movies played an important role in constr ucting collective memory in opposition to offici al Soviet historical narratives. They attempted to preserve fact s and problems no t used anywhere else (for instance re-discovering the histor y of the early 1950s in Wajda’s Man of Marble ). In times when the Soviet system was im posing double st andards and total contro l, watching movies could also be seen as learning the officially forbidden sense of na tional culture. In many cases, movies became tools opposing political and cultural domination of the tyrant. The countries of the Soviet bloc gained full in dependence in the years 1989-1990. Through a natural and formal process (joining NA TO and the EU), th ey became western democratic nations, causing a te rminology debate. The west most often attaches the label of Eastern Europe to newly formed democracies. Most of the nations take the label of Central Europe, using as a boundary the reach and use of the La tin alphabet, which despite geography leaves Lithuania, La tvia and Estonia in Central Europe but places like Belarus 6 See for instance: Montefiore, Simon Sebag. Stalin – Court of the Red Tsar New York: Routledge 2005. Compare also with reality presented in the propaganda movie produced in the USSR: USSR : Road to Happiness. The 60th Anniversary of the October Revolution 1917-1977 [ ]. Dir. Valeriy Guryanov. Documentary Movies Studio in Leningrad & the Union of Soviet Societies of Friendship and Cultural Cooperation with Foreign Countries, 1977.


8 (geographically more to the west) in Eastern Eur ope. It is particularly hard to distinguish the boundaries especially si nce it depends on who is drawing them, a historian, a cultural theorist, politician or a linguist. “Most studies of Central Europe begin with the opening question ‘Where is Cent ral Europe?’ while one book is even entitled In Search of Central Europe The answer is clearly not self evident” (Hames, The Cinema 1). Either way, certain countries always belong to Central Europe: Cz echoslovakia (and sinc e 1992 Czech Republic and Slovakia), Hungary a nd Poland. Their fates ar e tightly intertwined fo r centuries, but it is not the purpose of this wo rk to delve so deep into history. It is enough to remember that after WWII they became Soviet nations, on the east side of the Iron Curtain. Ev en after the fall of the USSR, these countries are seen by the intern ational community as a sort of a block called the Visegrd Group7 or the Visegrd Four, which joined them together through history, economy, geographical location and cultural ties. 7 named after the Hungarian town of Visegrd where the leaders of these countries met in 1991.


9 2. Totalitarian System and Cultu ral Life in the Soviet Bloc 2.1. Historical Background The twentieth century, with the end of WWI in 1918, brought independence to the Czechs, Slovaks, Poles and Hungarians. H ungary, and the federated Czechoslovakia, came into being on the political map of Eur ope as emancipated ex-provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Poland was rebor n on the lands, which from 1795 to 1918 belonged to her three occupants: Russia, Prussia and Austria. During and before WWI Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland found themselves in opposite political camps. Hungary, emb ittered by the Trianon treaty of 1920, which caused it to lose access to the sea and left more than half of Hungari ans and two thirds of Hungarian land outside of its borders, joined the coalition set up by Hitler’s Germany. Czechoslovakia, after official permission from Great Britain and France signed in Munich in 1938, was given as loot to th e third Reich: in March of 1939, Germany annexed the Czech territory and formed a fascist puppet government in Slovakia. WWII in Europe began with an attack on Poland: on September 1, 1939, Germany attacked from the west, on September 17,8 USSR attacked from the east, and the German-Soviet “friendship border,” set in October 1939, di vided the territory of Poland in two. 8 According to the secret protocols of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact (The Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact) signed on August 23, 1939.


10 The alliance of totalitarian countries (the Rome-Berlin Axis and the RibbentropMolotov Pact) led to the defeat of th e democratic countries: by the end of 1940, continental Europe was divided into two spheres: fascist (dominated by the Nazi Germany) and Soviet. “Without the USA, the Allied Powers amounted to little more than a club for invalids [although] Churchill and R oosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter on 11 August [1941] [...] But the US Congress was still unwilling to enter the war” (Davies 1027-1028). German attack of the USSR in June of 1941 changed this division of power, since it moved the totalitarian USSR to the si de of the democratic anti-Hitler coalition, which until Dec 8, 1941 (that is until the involv ement of the US in WWII) was comprised only of Great Britain and th e British Commonwealth and th e underground armies of the occupied nations. The participation of the USSR in the anti -Hitler coalition of the Allied Power had its price. For organizing the eastern front, wh ich was to relieve the British and American troops in Western Europe and in Asia, Stalin demanded a division of wartime Europe and the establishment of a sphere of Soviet infl uence. These demands we re partially accepted during the Teheran Conference of 19439 and officially signed in Yalta, in Feb 1945.10 In Teheran Stalin wished and Churchill and Roos evelt gave him free rein in the USSR and allowed to set up puppet communist governme nts in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Baltic States, Romania, and other Easter n European countries. By signing the Yaltan Agreement, Churchill and FDR agreed to give Stalin part of the Eu ropean continent east 9 The meeting between the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union – Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill a nd Joseph Stalin, respectively – held in Tehran, Iran between November 28 and December 1, 1943. (Davies 1036) 10 The Yalta Conference: the meeting between F. D. Roosevelt, W. Churchill, and J. Stalin in Yalta, between February 4 and February 11, 1945. (Davies 1036)


11 of the Elbe River. In Yalta, it was established that Germa ny would be split into four occupied zones, citizens of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia were to be handed over to their respective countries, regard less of their consent. Nevertheless, most of all, Stalin obtained a significant sphere of influence as a buffer zone. In this process, the freedom of small nations was sacrificed for the sake of Western stability, which meant that Belarussians, Bulgarians, Czechs, Estonians, Hungarians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Rumanians, Slovaks, Southern Slavs, Ukrainians (c. 180 million) were turned into citizens of Soviet republics or satellite communist stat es dominated by the Soviet totalitarian regime. In this way Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hung ary, separated from the rest of Europe by the Iron curtain found themselves firs t in the group of USSR satellite countries 11 and later in a Soviet-made military organization calle d the Warsaw Pact established in 1955 in Warsaw, Poland. 2.2. History, Resistance and Collective Memory In practice, Soviet domination meant th e dictatorship of a party organized according to the model the Bolshevik party, at first infiltrated by the Soviet apparatchiks and always at the full disposition and co mpletely surrendered to the Soviet hegemony. This meant an array of processes and effects taken from the model standard in the USSR, such as the Soviet model of economy, based on a system of state ownership and central planning, where the only owner and sponsor of any industry or enterprise was the state. In the Soviet system, just like in all totalitarian systems, most of the areas of academic, 11 Formally, pro-Soviet parties took control of the government: Hungary – 1945, Poland – 1947, Czechoslovakia – 1948. Soviet army was already there since 1945.


12 public and cultural life were dominated by the standing ideology, and their development and even existence depended on whether they performed the function dictated by the progovernment propaganda. This was especially evident in culture and education. Positions, from government officials to directors of academic centers and pr incipals of schools, we re filled with people according to the so-called “par ty key,” which meant members of the communist party or very rarely by people who had the full b acking of the party. Ce nsure was omnipotent, working preventively and repressively, reaching over every discipline of public life and any form of public communication. Official approv al had to be attained not only for large circulation publication (press, books) and media meant for a ma ss audience (films or radio shows), but also for any practical publi cations (including obituaries) and public appearances. Censorship was particularly severe in the first period of communist dictatorship, the Stalinist times. The smallest departure fr om the recommended line of action could cause anything from arrest, trial, torture, death sent ence or a long-term prison sentence and at the very least an interdiction of wo rking in one’s profession, ofte n combined with an inability to be hired, which is very hurtful in a situation where the government monopolizes everything. The Stalinist period did not end in 1953 with the deat h of the dictator but lasted until 1956. This is when12 Stalin’s successor Nikita Khru shchev, at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Sovi et Union, presented at a closed session of the Central Committee his famous Secret Sp eech denouncing the “cult of personality” that surrounded Stalin (although Khrushchev himself had no small part in cultivating it), and accusing 12 February 25, 1956. (Chruszczow 1)


13 Stalin of crimes committed dur ing the Great Purges The Soviet Communist party for years propagated that Stalin was a wise, peaceful and fair leader. Khrushchev’s unexpected speech suddenly broke this policy and cause d a phenomenon known as the thaw, which took a different course in each of the satellite countries. Its im pact on the film industry will be discussed during a detailed analysis of each particular nation named in the title of this work. Communist censorship reached over education, of course, especially in areas of humanities and social sciences. The new author ity, regardless of the thaw or periods of relatively less strict vigilance, even in Go rbachev’s time, wanted to raise subsequent generations on doctrines approved by the Poli tburo in Moscow. Literature curriculums were revised, removing works uncomfortable for the communists because they proposed or even mentioned an existence of social ideologies opposed to the ideas of Bolshevik totalitarianism. Names of authors who em igrated or printed texts for underground circulation outside of the state censorship we re permanently crossed off. Jzef Tejchma, an apparatchik and Minister of Culture in Poland between 1974 and 1978, recalls in his memoirs Moscow’s intervention when the Polish Radio broadcast music played by Mstislav Rostropovich, considered to be one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century, who at the same time was blacklisted in the USSR as a traitor, a dissident and an immigrant (Tejchma, Po egnanie 106). History was re-written: the basic id ea was to emphasize the sympathy and endorsement of the USSR from its beginning, as a state, which allowed for the ideas of freedom, equality and social justice. Authors of new sc hool textbooks of the 19th and 20th century exaggerated and almost caricaturi zed the role of worker movements and the


14 communist party, demonized the divide be tween the working masses and the ruling bourgeoisie, formed new ideas such as “democr acy,” to which they attached the adjective “people’s,” forming a dogma of a democracy wh ich existed only in the Soviet system. Rewriting textbooks was a hard task when it came to co untries such as Poland. In its most recent history, Poland experienced 123 years of Russia n occupation, a war to preserve its newly won independence from th e Red Army in 1919-1920, the aggression of September 17, 1939 breaking the Soviet-Po lish Non-Aggression Pact signed in 1932, the annexation of one third of Polis h territories in the east by the USSR, displacing nearly 2 million people from the occupied territories to camps in subarctic Siberia or deserts in Central Asia (about 60% of the di slodged died in the first year), and the murders on Stalin’s orders of about 25,000 Polish military officers taken as POWs in 1939 known as the Katy Massacre.13 The new history of Poland according to the Soviet formula dealt with troubling issues in simple ways, follow ing the pattern of “immemoria l Polish-Russian brotherhood.” The Polish partition was created by the czaris t government, which treated Russians much worse than Poles, and was overthrown in 1917, due to the proper an d just wrath of the nation. Lenin, the leader of the victorious Bolshevik revolution, issued a decree of independence declaring the law of self-deter mination of all nations subdued by the Czarist regime. By doing so, according to the Soviet interpretation, Poland regained its existence as a nation thanks to the Bolshevik party and her leader, and not because of decisions 13 In reality, 4410 Polish prisoners kept in a camp in Kozielsk died in Katy in April 1940. The graves of about 10,000 Polish POWs from camps in Ostashkovo an d Starobielsk were discovered in 1991 near the towns of Kharkov and Mednoye. The traces of the nearly 10,000 other prisoners have still not been found. (Davies 1004-1005; see also: Sanford, G. Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940 ; Cienciala, A., ed. Katyn : a crime without punishment .)


15 approved during the Paris Conference of 1 919. The attack of the Red Army on the independent nations of Ukraine and Poland, ai med to convert them into Soviet republics (actually the war of 1919-1920, where Poland allied with Ukraine and Belarus fought against the aggression of Bolshevik Russia), was treated by the USSR propaganda machine as a defense against an attack launched by un grateful, imperialistic and rabidly anti-Soviet Polish landlords and as an offering of help to the Polish, Ukrainian and Belarusian workers and peasants exploited by the same Polish la ndlords who attacked “the First State of Workers and Peasants” (the landlords were only Polish, because only Poland succeeded in the fight for independence and Belarus and Uk raine were turned into Soviet republics). A the same time, the defeat of the Bolsheviks and the Red Army in Kiev, which was caused in early 1920 by the allied Polish and Ukrain ian troops, was spun by USSR propaganda as an occupation of the Ukrain ian capital by an occupying army of bourgeois Poland.14 The aggression of the USSR on Poland on September 17, 1 939, as portrayed according to the Krem lin rules after WWII,15 showed it as a safe guard against Hitler’s occupation of lands populated by Ukrainians and Belarusians. There was of course no mention of the border between Germany and the USSR, which was agreed upon in the German Soviet non-aggression pact (the Ribbe ntrop-Molotov Pact) of September 23, 1939, where it was called the border of friendship or of the joint victory parade of the Soviet and German armies in Brest Litovs k in October 1939 (Davies 1001 ). In itself, “the Ribbentrop14 Using the same reasoning one can say that in 1944, the occupation forces of Great Britain and USA conquered and occupied France. 15 “Nazi and Soviet propaganda worked in unison, and at full blast. [...] Pravda announced that ‘GermanSoviet friendship is now establis hed forever’” (Davies 1003). On October 31, 1939, the Soviet foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov speaking about Poland and the September invasion said: “A short blow by the German army, and subsequently by the Red Army, was e nough for nothing to be left of this ugly creature of the Treaty of Versailles”. (Moynihan 93, Tucker 612).


16 Molotov pact was to be justified on the gro unds that it gave the Soviet Union time to construct its defences” (Davies 1000). No on e discussed the nonsensical meaning of the statement in the light of the f act of a quick German military su ccess in the first year of war with the USSR. Polish history textbooks for high schools, even in editi ons from 1987 – nearly two years before complete independence – made it clear that the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact was necessary for Soviet national security. The exis tence of the secret protocol with agreement of the partition of Poland between the Third Re ich and the USSR – acco rding to the official version – was suggested only by the unfriendly to the USSR Western historians, while the Soviet side firmly denied it. The quick de feat of Poland was linked to the appeasement politics of Britain and France and not So viet aggression of September 17, 1939.16 Until 1990, the Katy massacre was announced officially a crime committed by the army of Hitler’s Germany in 1942. In practice, though unofficially, the Katy massacre was classed “as an event which could not be mentioned, even to blame the Nazis. Possession of Lista Katy ska a roll call of the victims pub lished abroad, was a criminal offence” (Davies 1005). 17 In all countries of the Soviet bloc, the Sta linist times were treated similarly: after a short period of the thaw, the official propagand a (which meant practically every publication in every medium) was simply silent about any crimes committed be fore 1956. In “The Road to Happiness,” an hou r-long Soviet documentary, produ ced to celebrate the 60th 16 See: Szaflik, Jzef Ryszard. Historia Polski 1939-1947 [History of Poland 1939-1947] Warszawa : Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne, 1987. 17 See: Buszko, Jzef. Historia Polski, 1864-1948 [History of Poland (part 4:) 1864-1948]. Warszawa : PWN 1978. In this four volume academic textbook, written by professors of histor y from the Jagiellonian University, and published in 50,000 copies by the prestigious editorial house Polish Scientific Publishers PWN, the term “Katy ” is not even mentioned.


17 anniversary of the October revolution, whic h showed the history of the USSR and the success in each discipline of life18, Stalin (who ruled the country for 31 years) is practically nonexistent. His name is not mentioned once an d his image is shown on the screen for less than 30 seconds, in the background on a trib une among other member s of the government and military leaders watching the pa rade of victory after the end of WWII. If that is the way history looked through the interpretation of th e hegemon, one can image how it looked in subordinate nations. At the same time, however, artists were able to create a non -verbal system of communication, which enabled them to communi cate with audiences de spite the official bans and regulations. The best ex ample of such communication is Kana one of Andrzej Wajda’s early movies,19 which presents the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The movie touched upon a topic completely silenced a nd erased by officials during the previous twelve years. The case was extremely sens itive: the uprising was organized by the underground Polish Home Army and lead by the Polish government on exile, to stress their share in Poland’s liberation. Naturally, th e pro-Soviet authorities, who were brought from the east with the Red Army units and gained power by rigging elections, tried to immediately erase the meaning, tragedy and even the existence of the uprising from official history. This polic y was particularly resented in Warsaw, which became practically a mass grave for nearly 300,000 pe ople, where almost every family mourned fallen insurgents, with over 700,000 civilians br utally evacuated and later sent to labor and extermination camps. In Warsaw 60% of the buildings were destroyed: 25% during 18 USSR: Road to Happiness. The 60th Anniversary of the October Revolution 1917-1977 [ Doroga k schastiyu ]. Dir. Valeriy Guryanov. Documentary Movies Stud io in Leningrad & the Union of Soviet Societies of Friendship and Cultural Cooperation with Foreign Countries, 1977. 19 Kanal ( Kana ). Directed by Andrzej Wajda. Poland, 1957.


18 the combat and 35% in systematic German actions during which “in his fury, Hitler ordered that no stone of the re bel city was to be left sta nding” (Davies 1041). However, the most inconvenient fact for the governme nt concerned the issue known as, especially in Warsaw, the Soviet betrayal. The plan was to co-ordinate attacks in side the city with the Soviet final push [but] the intelligence of the Polish Re sistance was faulty. [...] Stalin did not recognize independent forces; and he had no intention of helping Poland to regain its freedom. […] the Soviets suddenly halte d on the very edge of the city. Foul treachery was afoot. Moscow Radio, whic h had called on Warsaw to rise, now denounced the leaders of the rising as ‘gang of criminals’. […] The demolition proceeded for three months, whilst the S oviet army, with its committee of Polish puppets in tow, watched passively from across the river. They did not enter Warsaw’s empty silent, snowbound ruin s until 17 January 1945. (Davies 10411042) As the name of the underground Polish Home Army was censored and articles, novels and films about the 1944 Uprising were eith er banned or modifi ed nearly until the late 1960s. Kana released in 1957, was an event just because of its topic. Wajda, who cared and fought for the credibility of his movies, wanted more: Of course, Wajda could allude only me tonymically to the Soviet betrayal: “I could not show that Sovi et troops were waiting in th e other side of the Vistula River while the Warszawa insurrection died on this side. It was enough that I led the protagonists of my film to the canal ’s outlet, from which they could see the other side of the river. The audien ce knew what I was going to say – we


19 communicated without words, using sy mbolic, almost magical language.” (Falkowska, Andrzej Wajda 48-49) 2.3. History and Confrontat ion on the Cultural Field In a reality dominated by a totalitarian system, adherence to which was guarded by Soviet tanks and bayonets, concentrati on and effectiveness of dissenters (either through open opposition or just civil disobedience) depended on the occasional lack of attention of the guards and the alertness and severity of local forces. Usually,20 the Kremlin did not rule directly in the domina ted regions but accordi ng to the Roman dogma of “divide and rule,” mediated by national Co mmunist parties where initially (until 1956) the apparatchiks were imported directly fr om the USSR; after 1956 they gave way to their local successors. In the history of the USSR-dominated Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland the events of years 1956, 1968 and 1980/81 made an impact on cultural politics. The year 1956 is the beginning of the post-Stalin thaw : as mentioned earlier, in April Nikita Khrushchev for the first time openly (though at a secret meeting of the Politburo) discussed the “errors and dist ortions” of the Stalinist peri od. This speech, published in pieces, influenced the radicaliz ation of mood in satellite na tions on a large scale and in two extreme cases led to open battles. In J une 1956, an uprising by workers of Poznan led to the eradication of a conservative ruling party propagating terror politics, arrests and 20 Usually, because of the three incidents of an armed intervention on an international scale. The Soviet army was used twice: tanks and infantry in 1951 quenched the workers uprising in East Berlin and other cities in East Germany; in 1956 the Soviets destroyed a significant part of Budapest during the Hungarian uprising. The third time the Soviet dictator hid behind a completely subordinate though in theory international organization: the Prague Spring of 1968 was ended by an advance and occupation of Czechoslovakia by the army of the Warsaw Pact, which included Soviet, Polish, Hungarian and Bulgarian divisions.


20 executions. In October 1956, the uprising against the regime reached Hungary. Both revolts brought different resu lts: the Red Army stopped at the Polish border but entered Hungary and destroyed a significant part of Budapest killing at least 2500 civilians (Davies 1103). This had, of course, a great influence over the cultural politics led by the communist parties in both countries. In Poland, despite the violent run of the workers’ protest in June 1956 in Poznan21 “when the Polish army fired on demonstrat ors carrying banners demanding ‘bread and Freedom’ and ‘Russians go home’” (Davis 1102), the new leaders of the Communist party in October 1956 managed to stop Khrush chev from sending the Soviet army to Poland. Right after October, censorship sudde nly eased up and cultu ral life began to bloom. This cultural thaw lasted nearly two years: toward the end of 1957 the authorities shut down the new wave magazine “ Po Prostu ” [Plainly], which resulted in demonstrations easily handled by the po lice and caused the g overnment of Gomu ka, a Communist party leader who ro se to power as a liberal, to quickly gain the name of “dictatorship of nimrods,” as tersely descri bed by a leading inte llectual of the times Stefan Kisielewski. Nonetheless, the thaw of 1956 brought many positive changes visible in the first films of the so-called Polis h Film School, created by Andrzej Munk and Andrzej Wajda, critical to the system a nd touching on subjects previously overlooked. Despite later difficulties, this critical curre nt in film was never banned or curtailed – twenty years later, it resulted in the Man of Marble the strongest hit aimed at the system in any film produced in th e satellite nations during an active pr ogram of national censorship. 21 According to official data, 53 people died (Davie s 1102). According to unofficial data, more than 100 people died and several hundred were wounded.


21 In Hungary, after a brutal crushing of liberal movements by the Soviet army,22 the new pro-Soviet government imposed harsh meas ures to prevent any future anti-system disturbances. Although the movie industry exis ted and was well established in Hungary, the censorship muzzled artistic and cultural life for years. Hence, even very interesting, unconventional and critical movies had pr o-communist, though sometimes completely irrelevant, elements added. The best exam ple is, for instance, Mikls Jancs’s Elektra, My Love of 1974.23 In this intriguing, poetic and highl y symbolic re-telling of the Greek myth in contemporary Hungary, a helicopte r with red stars suddenly appears as deus ex machina in the final scene – its meaning, necessity or even symbolic function is practically none, beside the pr esence of the red Soviet star, which speaks for itself. Only very few movies produced in Hungary openly undermined the legitimacy and practice of the Soviet system; the range of their influen ce was reduced as they were distributed to narrow circles of viewers in f ilm clubs and cinematheques. The year 1968 brought with it two important events, which, although unequal in breadth and international importa nce, greatly influenced the cu ltural life of the nations in which they occurred. In March 1968, Wars aw students began to protest, demanding freedom of expression, freedom of academic research, cultural freedoms and reinstatement of student privil eges to people who were rem oved from the University of Warsaw for dissension. The riots, which in a matter of days took ove r all Polish academic institutions, were brutally quelled by the police. This was accompanied by an antiSemitic persecution organized by the Communi st party. If any part of the Polish 22 Between 5 and 7 thousand people were killed and a bout 18,000 were wounded. Nearly 24 thousand people were imprisoned; about 200 thousand left the country. 23 Elektra, My Love ( Szerelmem, Elektra ). Directed by Mikls Jancs, Hungary, 1974.


22 intelligentsia had any questions about the intentions of the regime, March 1968 made them very clear. It became obvious that on ly corrupt opportunists with no political consciousness could serve the system. In na tional conscience, March polarized very clearly and precisely the mean ings of “us” and “them.” In August of 1968, the armies of the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia suppressing the Prague Spring – a movement aimed at democratizing the system, working under the slogan of “socialism with a human face.” The short period of freedom of speech and artistic expression was interru pted by the communist hard-line government restored in Czechoslovakia after the invasion. Harsh measures used by censors practically erased any freedom of Czech and Slovak artist ic expression for the next 20 years, and the country’s cultural policy was pushe d back to the Stalinist era. The third important period in the political and artistic life in the Soviet bloc, concerning freedom on the larg est scale, occurred in Poland between August 31, 1980 and December 13, 1981, commen cing with the victory of strikers from the Gda sk Shipyard and abruptly ended with the ma rtial law declared by the co mmunist military junta. This fifteen-month period, practically censorless, c ontributed greatly in consolidating forces of democracy and strengthening anti-Soviet sentiments particularly through artistic expression. These tendencies were not even sile nced by an incredibly brutal censorship during the years of the martial law. Greatly influential were the und erground press, illegal publishers, and shows on pirate radio stations in Poland and international stations such as Free Europe or Voice of Ameri ca. Polish cinema also particip ated in this breakthrough. Wajda’s Man of Iron was an international success, awar ded with the Golden Palm of the Cannes film festival. Unusually popular was (and is to this day) the comedy Teddy Bear


23 which pointed out the absurdity of the regime Also highly influential was, paradoxically, printed information in the underground magazi nes and bulletins about films stopped by the censorship such as Mother of Kings and Interrogation Thus, the cinematic history of three nations subdued by the Soviet regime, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland, particip ated in equal measures in destroying the system from the inside by going against the dogmas proposed by official propaganda, by mentioning parts of history sentenced for obscurity, stigmatizing collaborators and opportunist, and uncovering the lies, absurdity and mechanisms of the Soviet totalitarian system. Due to historical events mentioned above, each of these nations experienced the height of such activity at a di fferent time. Overall, however, due to proximity and ease of communication, such diachrony had a perpetual effect during a longe r span of time.


24 3. Response to Totalitarian Reality in Select Films The situation in satellite states depe nded entirely on the situation in the hegemonic state i.e. the USSR During the first several mont hs after WWII, Stalin gave culture a break. In 1946 however, the central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party announced several resolutions calling for a ne w approach to culture and art. Actually, they were accusations similar to those used ten years earlie r by Nazis condemning degenerate art of modernist masters. Charge s against contemporary art and artists were drawn up by Andrei Zhdanov, a dogmatic ideolo gist, put in charge of Soviet Union policy by Stalin. Their intellectual level wa s devastating: outstanding poet Anna Akhmatova was called “a representative of filth in literature, mingling prayer with debauchery,” famous satirist Mikhail Zosh chenko was named “a lout” and “a depraved, rotten hooligan” (P a ewski 216).24 This level of restriction imposed on writers, filmmakers, painters will be repeated later in Hungary, after 1956 and in Czechoslovakia after August 1968. At the end of 1946, Zhdanov presented a resolution on films and the movie industry. A ruthless critique was aimed at Leonid Lukov’s A Great Life, Part 225, for a drastic presentation of living conditions in the Donbas coalmine region, destroyed during the war. The harshest criticism was aimed however at movies and directors of a high 24 This and all other quotations from Polish s ources are translated by Kazimierz Robak. 25 A Great Life, Part 2 [ Bolshaya zhizn (2-ya seriya) ]. Directed by Leonid Lukov, USSR, 1958.


25 caliber.26 Pudovkin’s Admiral Nakhimov27 was condemned for presenting aristocratic parties instead of battle scenes. Dovzhenko’s Life in Bloom28 had to be remade because Michurin, a Russian scientific celebrity famous for his rese arch in pomology, agricultural selection and genetics, was presented as a great scholar but also as a caustic and unpleasant individual. As a result, the Soviet movie production decreased from forty to ten movies per year. In 1951, only six feature movies were pr oduced in the USSR, a country with about 63,000 theaters, which imported only a few movi es yearly from abroad. Describing this period, the Russian movie theoretician Pisa revski, observed that “only the movies propagating the cult of Stalin were favore d. They also had to present the possible broadest range of problems, which led to overloading with digre ssions and superficial reactions to the detriment of artistic level. All feelings were vanishing from movies. The characters had only positive features presented in declarations and di dactic slogans not in acts or deeds” (P a ewski 217). These restrictions also caused a departure from contemporary topics and a silenc ing of the greatest masters, such as Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Dovzhenko. The period of Stalin’s “errors and dist ortions” had stopped the development of Soviet cinema for a long time. A time of liberalization, Khrushchev’s Thaw, did not animate or accelerate artistic life substa ntially, as the period of easement was short.29 In 1957, Khrushchev informed Soviet intellectuals that: 26 As Aleksandr Dovzhenko, Sergei M. Eisenstein, Gr igori Kozintsev, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Leonid Trauberg. 27 Admiral Nakhimov Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin, USSR, 1946. 28 Life in Bloom [ Michurin ]. Directed by Aleksandr Dovzhenko, USSR, 1948. 29 Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev was the General Se cretary of the Central Co mmittee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between 1953 and 1964. In the USSR, after Stalin’s consolidation of power in the


26 they had indulged in ‘incorrect unders tanding of the essence of the party’s criticism of the Stalin personality cu lt,’ underestimated ‘the positive role of Stalin’ and should go back to ‘Socia lism realism … [with its] unlimited opportunities’ in developing ‘their talent s to glorify’ […] Khrushchev announces the establishment of ‘crea tive unions’ through which ‘the creative growth of every writer, artist, sculptor, etc.’ would be subject ‘to constant comradely concern.’ Here we find a clue how he intends to re place the restriction of police terror and to the meaning of his insistence on d ecentralization. He seems to plan a surveillance exerted not by an outside (pol ice) body but recruited from the midst of the people, in this case the writers a nd artists themselves. This would be an institutionalization of, po ssibly an improvement upon, th e mutual spying principle that permeates all totalitarian societie s, and whose effectiveness Stalin had achieved by making information and denunc iation of others the only test of loyalty. (Arendt 484-485) These remarks, which were actually the main points of the new set of cultural directions, signaled that in f act the thaw in the USSR was superficial and shallow. It explains why after Soviet interventions in Hungary and Czechoslova kia, hardliners from the newly reinstalled regime were so tough on ar tists: they followed the example of their superiors from Moscow. The thaw of 1956, however, brought a soften ing of censorship and more freedom in cultural policy in all satellite states. The historical events presented above resulted in 1920s, the title of the General Secretary was synonymous with leader of the state. After WWII, this pattern was implemented in satellite states regardless official structure of their governments. In some states (as Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland) the Communist pa rty leader’s title was the First Secretary.


27 the loosening of the ideologica l harness and were the reason why in the post-Stalinist era only three national film industries were able to deal w ith the system. Czechoslovakia and Poland expressed open criticism whenever th e ideological harness and censorship were loosened. In Hungary, where the Red Army brut ally suppressed an anti-Soviet uprising in October 1956, the new pro-Soviet government imposed harsh restrictions and pushed back the cultural policy to the level of Sta linist regulations for ma ny years. Nevertheless, the Hungarian movie industry had a long-li ved tradition and was well developed, but filmmakers could express their anti-totalitarian opinions only in an oblique or highly allegorical ways. In all satellite states there were two t ypes of culture and pop ular perception: the official and the unofficial one. The former was amplified, enforced and taught by state propaganda, media and educational systems. The unofficial was firstly and generally based on the oral history taught and passed on in private, then it developed in Poland, particularly after 1976, into more advanced forms: underground press, printing houses and illegal classes of history, literature and social science, nicknamed “flying universities,” for their fre quent escapes from secret political police raids. The film historian is faced with the fo rmidable, if not impossible, task of integrating the dual aspects of Polish cultu re of this [the Soviet era] period: officially sanctioned culture and its unofficial counterpart. The first component is the propagandafilled official culture, promulgated by the Communist authorities that created a false image of reality. The second is the ‘secondary culture’ which existed through underground publishing houses and academic courses operating since 1976, and in the 1980s operated as a cultural


28 movement (in spectacles, exhibitions, lect ures and evening poetry readings), and was helped, to a large exte nt, by the Church. In the 1980s this unofficial culture was very much influenced by Central European ideas, especially those represented in the works of Milan K undera, Adam Michnik, Vclav Havel and Gyrgy Konrad. This ideology was aptly characterized by the historian Timothy Garton Ash when he said that the problem of Polish unofficial culture was the fact that, while it desperately searched for self -identification, it trie d to define itself through the romantic stereotypes of the national independence movement and the romantic masks of rebellion and conspir acy. Nevertheless, thes e were inadequate expressions of the social-poli tical and existential situation of the Poles in the last decades of the 20th century. This element of inauthenticity became a residue with which the cinema entered th e 1990s. (Jankun-Dopartowa 178) This description of the conditions of Polis h cultural life, accurately presents the mechanisms existing in all satellite states. In the Soviet Union, th e Brezhnev era (1964-1982)30 brought further tightening of state control over all public domains, and thus al so over artistic life. In the film industry it resulted in the low audience numbers in theaters. “Yesterday the Japanese movie Empire of Passion (Oshima)31 filled the theater with the audien ce yearning for otherness, scandal, eroticism on the verge of pornography, – wrot e in his diaries Jzef Tejchma on March 8, 1979 – as opposed to the recent Soviet movie A Declaration of Love32, shown to empty seats” (Tejchma, Po egnanie 47). The latter was a dull stor y in Socialist Realist style: the 30 Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was the General Secretary of th e Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between 1964 and 1982. 31 Empire of Passion ( Ai no borei ). Directed by Nagisa Oshima. Japan, 1978. 32 A Declaration of Love ( Obyasneniye v lyubvi ). Directed by Ilya Averbakh, USSR, 1977.


29 dialogues, controlled on many levels and filtered by many, were boring, artificial and bombastic declarations about love of the Motherland, a nd the necessity of serving community hours voluntarily every weekend. All critical approaches to the Soviet r eality, i.e. difficulties of everyday life, shortages, housing or drinking problems, et c., were scrupulously examined by censors and often corrected, cut off or banned. Denounc ing and criticizing the Stalinist era, although officially condemned by the Communist party ideologists, had to be performed with utmost caution, as a sensitive topic. O fficials tried to bala nce public demands and ideological requirements but their restrictions backfired sometimes in the most unexpected moments. Suddenly, in the late 1980s, one of th e B-class, cheaply produced action movies became a national hit: theater s were overfilled and long lines were crowding in front of the box offices where tickets for the Cold Summer of 195333 were sold. The movie presented two political prisone rs of small importance just released from the GULAG after Stalin’s death, who ope nly spoke – although being extremely economical with words – about their situation. Both critics and censors were surprised to the utmost degree that the Soviet moviegoers reacted this way. Cold Summer of 1953 produced in 1987, was one of the first visibl e signs of permanent changes coming with glasnost (openness), introduced as a key term of perestroika (restructuring) by Mikhail Gorbachev34 in 1985. Before this period, a thaw in the USSR was a long forgotten term. 33 Cold Summer of 1953 [ Kholodnoe leto 53 ]. Directed by Aleksandr Proshkin. USSR, 1987. 34 Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was the General Secret ary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between 1985 and 1991.


30 This film was released four years before satellite states threw off the Soviet yoke, and six years before the USSR’s disbanding.35 3.1. Hungary: ‘reasonable’ critique In Hungary the movie industry was not nationalized until 1948, hence during the first years after WWII production was con tinued as before the war. After 1948 nationalization, exploitation of social pr oblems became more frequent element in Hungarian movies, but without st rict stylistic discipline in the early phase. Nevertheless, Socialist Realism brought a lowering of artistic standards. Movies ha d all the flaws of a mendacious art, escaping from real problems toward a fictional, electoral poster-like reality (P a ewski 230). Until 1956, the paths of both Polish and Hunga rian cinematography were parallel: several hits just after the war, then propagandistic schematism, and between 1955 and 1956 a dazzling rebirth. In Poland, this renai ssance ignited the Polish Film School. In Hungary, after Soviet tanks crushed the na tional protests of 1956, the conservative government of Jnos Kdr stopped the na tural development of young and talented filmmakers for at least a decade. In 1957, Hungary’s role in the Eastern Bloc and the Warsaw Pact was reaffirmed but Kadar’s economic reforms raised the st andard of living and Hungary began to develop its own brand within the Soviet framework, nicknamed Goulash Communism for 35 “[…] the leaders of Russia, Byelorussia and Ukraine […] at 2.17 on 8 December [1991] signed a declaration stating that ‘the USSR ceased to exist’. Next day they announced the creation of a Commonwealth of Independent States. The CIS was a convenient cover be hind which the core of the strategic arsenal could be kept under a single command whilst most other Soviet institutions were quietly buried. By the end of the year, the peaceful passing of Europe’s last empire was complete” (Davies 1127).


31 mixing an assortment of unlike ingredients, as in the national Hungarian dish. Kadar’s government tried to improve the quality of life by introducing elem ents of free market into the Soviet model of centrally planned ec onomy. This policy had to balance the harsh truth that there was no way to change the political system. With the passage of time, some of the draconian measures against free speech and culture imposed in 1956 were gradually lifted. The Hungarian Communist Part y still maintained a high level of control and close observation of society and censors hip muzzled artistic and cultural life for years. Only very few movies produced in Hungary undermined openly the legitimacy and practice of the Soviet system; the range of their influence was reduced to narrow circles of film societies. Hungarian directors and scri ptwriters were subjected to censors’ strict supervision. Any open criticism or thesis oppos ing the official ideology was nipped in the bud and brought repression down on artists. Ev en the most famous and internationally acclaimed Istvn Szab avoided inconvenient topics at home and focused on totalitarianism in the Nazi edition while dire cting movies for West German and Austrian producers because condemning Nazism was allowed and even highly appreciated by communist authorities. [Kadar’s] famous slogan, “Who is not agai nst us, is with us,” came to play a decisive role in the ongoi ng negotiation and re-negotia tion of artistic freedom after the national uprising of 1956. As a result, a loose unspoken consensus ensued: filmmakers were not to discu ss taboo subjects such as the Hungarian revolution, the role of the Soviet Union or the leading role of the Communist Party, and they would be left more or le ss to their conscience and talent. (Hames, The Cinema 256)


32 The executive authorities allowed only few exceptions to the principle of obedience and laudations. In the late 1960s, under Czech influence, a number of films criticized the system; their indirect criticis m was limited, however, to the Stalinist regime of Mtys Rkosi,36 as in Pter Bacs’s comedy The Witness produced in 1969 and presenting the dark Stalinist years of the early 50s. Jozsef Pelikn, a levee watchman and most of all a common man, suddenly discovers that his school friend and a co-villager, Zoltn Dniel, is a minister in the Rkosi regime. Dniel lavishes on Pelikn a shower of favors, both unexpected and unwanted, as all Pelikn wants is a simple, quiet life something actually not easy to attain: Dniel: – How’s the mood around here? Pelikn: – Well... Dniel: – I’ve read it’s excellent. Pelikn: – Where did you read that? Dniel: – In the o fficial mood report. Pelikn: – Then it must be excellent. ( Witness minute 8) Being courteous and pleasant to everyone Pelikn cannot refuse, hence he finds himself in the shoes of a director of the city swimming pool, a manager of the amusement park and a head of the Hungarian Orange Re search Institute. Each position brings him a spectacular fall, as Pelikn is not able to accommodate the distorte d totalitarian reality and uses his common sense, honesty and l ogic. The movie actually does not have a traditional plot: each “manager’s” episode ends with Pelikn’s incarceration and the film is rather a set of shor t cabaret-like scenes interwoven w ith prison interludes. It is not for 36 Rkosi was the leader of Hungari an communists (General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party) between 1945 and 1956.


33 the first time that a simpleton comments on the world around, giving – thanks to his common sense and logic – the most accura te and well-aimed diagnosis. Among his literary ancestors Jozsef Pelik n has Cervantes’ Sancho Pans a and Diderot’s Jacques the Fatalist, both known for their criticism and shar p wit; this trope is also popular in Russian folk tales. Communist censors realized that these comments could be too harsh, and the officials from the Hungarian Ministry of Culture “allowed filming only with them monitoring it. They even for ced the filmmakers to re-wri te some scenes and cut out others” (A Tan, In spite of vigilance and close surveillance, The Witness had the force of an earthquake. Innocent lines displayed in public exploded, as for instance Pelikn’s statement to his subordinates from the amus ement park: “If the people have anything to worry about they came to the right place to shit their pants at the Great Socialist Ghost Train Ride. Don’t you agree comrades?” ( Witness minute 43). A silent but visible banner bearing the statement “A big hurrah for the Socialist Entertainment Industry’s success!” ( Witness minute 44) was not only mocking but also most of all subversive. The dialogue in the Hungarian Orange Research Institute (w hich name was a bitter joke itself) during a state ceremony honoring the first Hungarian gr own orange, was learned by heart even by those who did not see the movie: Pelikn: – Comrade Virg, one of my sons has eaten the orange. What shall we do? Comrade Virg: – Take it easy. Here you are. Pelikn: – This is a lemon. Comrade Virg: – An orange. Pelikn: – No, it’s a lemon.


34 Comrade Virg: – I’m not going to argue with you. [ Few minutes later Pelikn hands a le mon to the Leader of the State ] The Leader: – What’s this? Pelikn: – Orange. The Leader: – Orange? Pelikn: – The new Hungarian orange. A bit paler, a bit sourer, but it’s our own. ( Witness minute 51) 37 At the evening, the first Hungarian grow n orange was honored with an evening gala and ball. During this even t, Pelikn is still in doubt: Pelikn: – I must admit, I have some re servations about making such a big fuss about all this. After all, we’v e just deceived our own people. Comrade Virg: – Really? Who did we deceive? Ourselves? We know the truth. The researchers? They are quite content with their new medals. The general public? They don’t even eat any oranges or lemons. Nevertheless, they are happy to celebrate with us The imperialists, on the other hand. We really outsmarted them this time. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes right now. We proclaimed: let there be Hungarian orange. And there it is. We don’t make empty promises, Pelikn. ( Witness minute 52-53) Virg’s lecture, although de livered and formally aimed at the early 50s was read by the viewers unmistakably: it was a sharp and brief description of the ideological paranoia around them. In realit y, nobody believed in imperialisti c predators as well as in promises made by the communist leadershi p. Owning the media and propaganda had – 37 English translation of Hungarian, Czech and Polis h dialogues are quoted from movies’ subtitles.


35 from the totalitarian owner’s point of view – good and bad sides. Good was, of course, the ability to shape an image of reality and th e mentality of viewers, students and readers. What was bad was that the sa ying “a lie repeated hundred ti mes becomes truth” does not always apply. When in newspapers people coul d read that there was plenty of everything and just right behind their door they had to queue in lines for everything, newspapers and official propaganda were loosing credib ility. Here collective memory and direct experience of reality filled the gap of nece ssary information: being misinformed about present life, people shared memories from th e past and experience from trips abroad. And they tried to keep mental bala nce by seeking refuge in humor. “Several quotes from the movie, especially the ones ‘the international situation is intensifying’ and ‘Life is not a cream cake, Pelikn’ have become part of everyday speech in Hungary. Several scenes, includi ng a visit by Pelikn (Ferenc Kllai) at Dniel’s (Zoltn Fbri) prison cell was cut by state-censorship” (A Tan, Small wonder that the movie was sh elved for ten years: its Hungarian premiere took place in 1979, ten years after filming wrapped. In the meantime, several closed shows took place, he nce “during those 10 years The Witness has become a legend which can explain its instan t cult status after releas e” (A Tan, Harsh critical films came relatively late in Hungary, when restrictions were not so rigid and scrupulous and films officially dealt with social not political issues. Through criticizing economic and soci al phenomena, generated by th e ineffectuality of public offices and management, such movies critici zed the entire system, but somehow escaped 38 Both quotations in this paragraph are from: “A Tan. The Witness. Dir. by Pter Bacs, Hungary, 1969.”


36 the censor’s attention. In the mid and late 1970s, Bela Tarr’s films were an exceptional break with the Hungarian censorship rule s. They were accepted probably for being classified between film etudes and experime ntal movies and the distribution spanned rather narrow or closed circ les of film societies. Nevert heless, these closed circles gathered the intellectual cream of society so the impact of movies presented in their meetings was immense. One of the most important and urgent issues that corrupted life in the entire Soviet system was the housing problem. Tarr presented it in his bitter drama Family Nest produced in 1977 and a sharp accusation of the Soviet order. The movie was filmed on black and white tape with sharp contrasts. The plot is placed in Budapest and open locations are chosen carefully: one of the worl d’s most beautiful and enchanting cities is presented as a repugnant, dirty, ugly and most of all hostile place. C onstant close-ups and a predominance of scenes in cramped, overcro wded living quarters, create a stifling and oppressive mood and give the viewer a sensor y illusion of intruding in the most intimate and private moments of the protagonists’ life. Tarr connects obj ective and subjective narrations intertwining the plot with scenes, which seem taken from a documentary or psychoanalytic interview. The young couple’s nightmare of living with two other families in a two-bedroom apartment, the disintegrati on of social bonds, and replacing family ties with a fight for survival and omnipresent hos tility – all this does not bring an easy solution. In fact, it does not bri ng any solution at all. The coup le is thrown out of their place and the movie ends with both husband and wife living separately in different parts of town with no hope for any change. Furthe rmore, the grueling jobs and the dingy bar were portrayed as the “only escape from dingy houses that the characters live in, and


37 alcoholism seems the inevitable reprieve from their miserable lives” (Heilman, In the midst of the Kadar’s Goulash Communism, praised by the Communist propaganda as an economic miracle, the bitte r words of Irn, the wife, spoken through tears of hopelessness and he lplessness were paralyzing: – Just a room would do for a start, I don’t care, I could go and live with someone... Now I sleep here, I sleep there, I don’ t know where I am. And that’s bad. We had plenty of problems, we’ve b een married for 7 years, but this, I think, this is final. [...] If there’d be just two of us, it’d be different. But it can’t go on like this... [...] Anything, anywhere, ev en at the far end of the world. [...] And not have a lot of people watching us what we do... Why do we close the door, why don’t we open it? – You can’t be normal in the factory. Ever yone there is nervy. They laugh all the day because so nobody sees what’s up, then they go home and cry. […] I was on overtime, like a donkey. [...] No one ever helped with a single penny, nothing. – And they have their own justice... them, the Council. […] Not the demographic family policies or what, the things they explain all the time. ( Family Nest minute 72-87) Everything around the couple of protagonists is filled w ith propagandistic joy and optimism. Radio broadcasts of optimistic songs, programs on TV show happy smiling faces, loudspeakers in the amusement park ro ar with propagandistic slogans: “Everyone


38 works together for the better of the societ y. Free health care. Free housing. Everything you need is provided.” The idea is be autiful, however it does not work. Laci, the husband: – Only one thing missi ng, a flat... I’ll declare I love her and she loves me. I’m sure of that... Absolute ly sure. And if she has someone, I don’t care. If I get the flat, and she comes back: welcome... And she will come back. ( Family Nest minute 95-97) The movie ends with a long silent closeup of a crying Laci, then crying Irn, and then a joyful song broadcaste d by the state radio: “If you wa nt to, sleep with us. We’ll protect you as you dream your dreams! Dreams in your dreams will come true. Our house will be a fine little house. All our friends w ill come here. We’ll play all those old sweet songs, when our cottage is built at last” ( Family Nest minute 97-99). In the reality presented by th e movie there is no military, no violence inflicted by any government employees, n one of the common images that are normally associated with antiCommunist films. Rather, Family Nest portrays a young working class fa mily without a future or prospects. With their finances, they cannot buy or rent another flat. They must literally beg for one every month from the sole apartm ent owner and distributor: the governmental Council, which only results with an answer “maybe next year.” As the motto of the film says in its opening: “This is a true story. It didn’t happen to th e people in the film, but it could have” ( Family Nest minute 0). 3.2. Czechoslovakia: Two Subversive Tendencies. After WWII, the Barrandov film studios in Prague were the biggest and the only movie center in Europe untouched by the war. During the war, 82 f eature movies were


39 produced there. In the postwar decade, the number of films create d annually in Barrandov never dropped below 15, for instance 18 movies were made there in 1947, and 20 in 1955 (P a ewski 227, 747). In 1948, the Czechoslovak movie industry wa s nationalized for the next 41 years. The rules and regulations of Socialist Realis m demanded that every movie had to present all aspects of filmed reality in certain proportions: when ther e was a love scene between a young couple, the viewer should see a modern “s ocialistic” factory in the distance; a bad character had to have the “wrong” soci al background, usually a bourgeois background from the middle class; a good character should be a worker or peasant believing in the leading role of the Communi st Party, and possibly a party member; every problem particularly concerning people from the lower classes should be pos itively solved by the party and its activists. Enforcement of thes e rules however was impeded because of the high number of produced films. As the only m ovie production center in the Soviet bloc, the well-equipped Barrandov pract ically uninterrupted ly produced comedies, thrillers and detective films. Political epic s with a propagandistic tinge were present in Barrandov, but much less visible than in other satellites. A move away from aesthetic dogmatism came with the thaw of 1956. Propagandistic wo rks obeying the aesthetic dogmatism were forgotten, and the Barrandov Studios becam e a hotbed of young talented filmmakers who, within few years, created a unique ar tistic current, the Czechoslovak New Wave that culminated in the 1960s. This open formula movement, connected mainly by aesthetic principles, was never a formal one and produced no manifest o or theoretical writings. Its members, V ra Chytilov, Miloš Forman, Elo Havetta, Jaroml Jireš, Ji Krej k, Ji Menzel, Jan


40 N mec, Jaroslav Papoušek, Ivan Passer, Ev ald Schorm and many others, made their debuts in the early 1960s and produced severa l internationally acclaimed movies through the rest of the decade. “Older directors – Jan Kadr and Elmar Klos, František Vl il, Karel Kachy a, Vojt ch Jasn, Štefan Uher, Ladislav He lge – were also to make their contribution” (Hames, The Cinema 13). Creators of the Czechoslovak New Wave used dark and absurd humor. Their movies often explored topics previously unsaid and omitted by the communist propaganda as a young ge neration’s feeling of being lost or its lack of traditional morality. The movies fr om Czechoslovakia soon gained international fame: Kadr and Klos’s The Shop on Main Street and Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains received Academy Awards as the best foreign language f ilms and were nominated for Golden Globes in 1967 and 1968 respectively. Forman’s The Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen’s Ball were nominated for Oscars in 1967 and 1969 respectively, and his Black Peter received several prestigious European awards. So did Chytilova’s Something Different and Fruit of Paradise Jireš’s The Cry and The Joke N mec’s Diamonds of the Night and Martyrs of Love Passer’s A Boring Afternoon.39 39 A set of international awards earned by the Czec hoslovak filmmakers in the 1960s is impressive: V ra Chytilov (b. 1929): Something Different ( O n em jinm ), 1963 –Grand Prize of the MannheimHeidelberg International Filmfestival in 1963; Fruit of Paradise ( Ovoce strom rajskch jme ), 1969 – nominated for the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1970; Miloš Forman (b. 1932): Black Peter ( ern Petr ), 1964 –Golden Sail at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1964 and Jussi, the main film award in Finland in 1967; The Loves of a Blonde ( Lsky jedn plavovlsky ), 1965 – Bodil Award in Denmark in 1967 and Nominated for the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1965; Vojt ch Jasn (b. 1925): Desire ( Touha ), 1958 – award for the Best Selection and nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959; When the Cat Comes ( A p ijde kocour ) (1963) – Jury Special Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1963; The Pipes ( Dmky ) 1966 – Nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 1966; All My Compatriots ( Všichni dob rodci ) 1968 –Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969; Juraj Jakubisko (b. 1938): Crucial Years ( Kristove roky ), 1967 – Josef von Sternberg Award at the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival in 1967;


41 Despite the New Wave, directors remained mostly in the field of social not political criticism and even the most innocen t movies could be perceived by censors as criticism of the system. The best examples are movies of Miloš Forman ( Black Peter The Firemen’s Ball The Loves of a Blonde ), which satirically portrayed the flaws of human nature but actually criticized the political conditions in wh ich these flaws could emerge. Also during the relative arti stic freedom in the years preceding the Prague Spring of 1968, state authorities could us e sudden harsh measures. Jan N mec, for his politically Jaroml Jireš (1935-2001): The Cry ( K ik ) 1963 – nominated for the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1964; The Joke ( Žert ), 1969 – OCIC Award at the San Sebast in International Film Festival in 1969; Karel Kachy a (1924-2004): The High Wall ( Vysok ze ), 1964 – Silver Sail at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1964; The Hope ( Nad je ), 1964 –Best Director at the Mar del Plata Film Festival in 1964; Long Live the Republic! ( A ije Republika ) 1965 – Best Film at the Mar del Plata Film Festival in 1966; Jn Kadr (1918-1979) and Elmar Klos (1910-1993): The Shop on Main Street ( Obchod na korze ), 1965 – Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1966; Ji Krej k (b. 1918): On the Supernatural: first episode “Glorie” ( O v cech nadp irozench : Glorie ) 1958 – Special Mention at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1959 Ji Menzel (b. 1938): Closely Watched Trains ( Ost e sledovan vlaky ), 1966 – Grand Prize of the MannheimHeidelberg International Filmfestival in 1966 and Os car for the Best Foreign Language Film in 1968; Jan N mec (b. 1936): Diamonds of the Night ( Dmanty noci ), 1964 – Grand Prize of the MannheimHeidelberg International Filmfestival in 1964; A Report on the Party and the Guests ( O slavnosti a hostech ), 1966 –Gran Premio at the Bergamo International Film Festival in 1966; Martyrs of Love ( Mu ednci lsky ), 1966 – Special Mention at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1967; Ivan Passer (b. 1933): A Boring Afternoon ( Fdn odpoledne ), 1964 – Grand Prix at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1966; Alfrd Radok (1914-1976): Grandfather of Cars ( D de ek automobil ), 1957 – Silver Seashell at the San Sebastin International Film Festival in 1957 Evald Schorm (1931-1988): Courage for Every Day ( Kad den odvahu ), 1964 – Grand Prix of the Locarno International Film Festival in 1966; Reflections ( Zrcadlen ), 1965 – Silver Dragon in the Best Documentary category at the Cracow Film Festival in 1966; Return of the Prodigal Son ( Nvrat ztracenho syna ), 1966 – Special Mention at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1967; The Parson’s End ( Far v konec ), 1969 – nominated for the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969; Štefan Uher (1930-1993): Organ ( Organ ), 1965 – Special Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1965; Otakar Vvra (b. 1911): Romance for Bugle ( Romance pro k dlovku ), 1967 – Special Silver Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1967; Golden Queen ( Zlat reneta ) 1965 –Golden Seashell at the San Sebastin International Film Festival in 1965; Ji Weiss (1913-2004): Romeo, Juliet and Darkness ( Romeo, Julie a tma ), 1960 – Golden Seashell at the San Sebastin International Film Festival in 1960; Ninety Degrees in the Shade ( T icet jedna ve stnu ), 1965 – UNICRIT Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1965; Murder Czech Style ( Vrada po našem ), 1967 – Silver Seashell at the San Sebastin Internat ional Film Festival in 1967. (From various sources)


42 committed black comedy A Report on the Party and the Guests40 (1966), barely escaped jail: “when President Novotn sa w the film, he apparently ‘climbed the walls’ (almost literally, according to N mec) and demanded the arrest of the director. […] N mec escaped the threat of jail (although the film was banned until the Prague Spring of 1968)” (Hames, Says N mec: N mec: Thanks to the awards, I was able to make two more films in Czechoslovakia, The Party and the Guests and Martyrs of Love41. After that, I was forbidden to work. […] [Košuli ov:] When, exactly, did they fo rbid you to work? Was it in the beginning of the 1970s, just before you left the country? N mec: No, it happened already in 1966. But I could still work in television, and I made musical films. I was actually on e of the first who started the videoclip culture. In Czechoslovakia, we were among first in the world to do this. The definitive ban came after the Russian invasion in 1969. [..] In 1969, I was forbidden to do anything. (Košuli ov, Everything, A Report on the Party and the Guests directed by N mec is an absurd comedy close to Samuel Beckett and Eugne Ionesc o, in which dialogues are constructed from disconnected sentences. A group of friends intending to spen d a day on a picnic in the forest is unexpectedly forced to attend a pa rty at the lakeshore with a band of dubious characters who behave like secret police agents Each of the guests is interrogated, while 40 A Report on the Party and the Guests ( O slavnosti a hostech ). Directed by Jan N mec. Czechoslovakia, 1966. 41 Martyrs of Love ( Mu ednci lsky ). Directed by Jan N mec, Czechoslovakia, 1966.


43 the others are gathered in the open space a nd surrounded by a circle drawn in the gravel. Only one of them steps out, but after he is pursued and punishe d, others respect the invisible fence and keep an eye on each othe r. Then the main host appears, quiets his “boys” and approaches the guests in a conci liatory manner. However, discovering that one of the guests has disappeared, he initia tes a manhunt with dogs and guns. “He did not want to be here at the party,” feebly repeat s the wife of the missing guest but her voice is drowned out by barking and noise of the chase. Other guests obediently sit at the table, the candles are blown out for energy savings, the screen turns black and the barking is amplified. An impassable wall created by the enchante d circle on the dirt, existing only in minds of surrounded ones may resemble the main problem of Buuel’s The Exterminating Angel42, which is a mysterious blockade keeping guests of a certain party inside the house and disabling their will and potency just before the moment of leaving. N mec however denies any influences: […] people say I copied it from him, but I saw Buuel’s film about 5 years after the completion of A Report on the Party and the Guests I do not believe in direct influence, that someone reads a book that tells him how to make a film. But I think there are indirect influences that affect you even when you’re not aware of it. The mysterious and abstract characters of the film A Report on the Party and the Guests arose because of our fight agains t censorship. We would have had no chance of making the film if it had been more concrete. We used “over42 The Exterminating Angel ( El ngel Exterminador ). Directed by Luis Buuel, Mexico, 1962.


44 stylization” to confuse th e Communist censors so they would not immediately realize that it was aimed against them. (Košuli ov, The authorities nevertheless found offens e in a quite unexpected point. Says N mec: […] they found something I did not think of. In the film there is the character of the host, played by our good friend Ivan Vysko il. He was not a film actor. He had his own performances in a theater with his own texts, so it was hard to make him read the text from the script. And one of the censors said that he looked like Lenin and that we were making fun of Leni n and Leninist principles. After that, I realized that there really is a likeness between them. The censors took used this idea as a pretext against the film. I wa s very surprised at the time. (Košuli ov, “Everything”) N mec of course denied any attacks on th e government or dese cration of Soviet icons, but the movie was attacked from two si des. As a collective representation of the Czechoslovakian intelligentsia, intimidated and obedient, it was coldly received by critics attending the pre-release screening of a film. The state authorities accu sed the director of casting amateurs representing the cream of opposition circles. Apart from Ivan Vysko il, who played the host, the cast was made up of nonactors, including, for example, Ji N mec, a psychologist and later a Charter 77 spokesperson, composers such as Kare l Mareš and Jan Kl usk (who played Rudolf, the head of the police) and film director Evald Schorm, who was identified both personally and through hi s films as someone of moral integrity. The cast also included the novelist Josef Škvoreck and his wife Zdena Salivarov-Škvoreck, who were later to emigrate to Canada, and Dana N mcov,


45 who was also to become a Charter 77 spokesperson. It was a virtual photo album of “counter revolution,” says N mec – only Havel was missing. (Hames, Enfant) The short period of freedom of speech and artistic expression came in January 1968, when a liberal wing of the Czechos lovak Communist party led by Alexander Dub ek decided to introduce some reforms to cr eate “Socialism with a human face.” This short-lived rule, ardently supported by intellect uals and artists, brought an abolishment of censorship and – in the film industry – the commencement of projects conceived previously but rejected by the former conservative authoritie s. Among the movies denouncing the Soviet imposed system was The Joke by Jaroml Jireš43, a bitter comedy based on Milan Kundera’s novel, presen ting experiences of a young man whose unfortunate joke – it was a postcard from the summer holid ays sent to his girlfriend reading: “Optimism is the opium of the people! A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky!” (Kundera 34) – resulted in his expulsion from the university, a sentence at a penal colony and forced labor in a coal mine. Jireš was lucky – he had fi nished his film before the Soviet invasion, and it was presented to viewers, although only for se veral weeks. Others, who started their productions later or were late with shooting or editing, were doomed to oblivion. “During the entire Prague Spring, finished movies were immediately pr esented in theaters. However there were many productions not ed ited before 1969: most of these were banned from public theaters and shelved” (P a ewski 424). Three of them were exposed to public view during intern ational festivals after 1990. Ji Menzel’s Skylarks on a 43 The Joke ( Žert ). Directed by Jaromil Jireš, Czechoslovakia, 1969.


46 String44 took up the subject of St alinist times and a camp of forced labor where saxophone players were incarcerated because their instrument was considered too bourgeois, professors of philosophy were forced to carry typewriters to a scrap heap, and beautiful girls were reeducated for attempts to leave the country without permission from authorities. Juraj Jakub isko’s tragic comedy Birds, Orphans and Fools45 is an anarchic and surrealistic story on three adults acting with childish foolishness to overpass the pain of living in a war-torn country. Karel Kachy a’s The Ear46 was a satire on the nomenklatura47 members: its protagonists are always accompanied everywhere by the fear of being accused, exposed and rejected a nd hence they act cowa rdly, spinelessly and incompetently and are rewarded for this with a top positions in a government. “The aforementioned movies, proofs of a true artis tic freedom and a spirit of good citizenship were not exceptional. They mirrored an enthus iastic burst of activity of nearly entire artistic milieu” (P a ewski 424-425). Jan N mec, monitored and supervised in the field of feature movies, shifted to documentaries, as this genre di d not need a large crew or s ophisticated equipment. “Then […] came Strahovsk demonstrace ( The Strahov Demonstration ),48 an analysis of the 44 Skylarks on a String ( Sk ivnci na niti ). Directed by Ji Menzel, Czechoslovakia, 1990. The movie was filmed in 1968-1969 but edited, finished and dated in 1990. 45 Birds, Orphans and Fools ( Vt ikovia, siroty a blzni ). Directed by Juraj Jakubisko. Czechoslovakia, 1969. 46 The Ear ( Ucho ). Directed by Karel Kachy a. Czechoslovakia, 1970. 47 nomenklatura n. 1. The system of patronage to senior positions in the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union and some other Communist states, controlled by committees at various levels of the Communist Party. 2. (used with a pl. verb). The lists of appointees matching the lists of patronage positions in such a system. 3. (used with a pl. verb). The appointees to these positions: “ The ... nomenklatura are perceived as draft-immune ” (Anthony Arnold). 4. The stratified, privileged class composed of these appointees. [Russian, from Latin n mencl t ra list of names] (The American Heritage Dictionary, third edition) 48 The Strahov Demonstration ( Strahovsk demonstrace ). Directed by Jan N mec. Czechoslovakia, 1990.


47 student demonstrations of 1967 and Oratorium pro Prahu ( Oratorio for Prague ),49 a record of the Warsaw Pact invasion. Both were banned” (Hames, Enfant). Oratorio for Prague was a 26-minute documentary on the Sovi et invasion in Pr ague. It was: shot in a style so poetic and gentle that the humanism and generosity of spirit, which seemed about to radiate from Czechos lovakia into the world, is there intact. […] ‘The movie was begun as a documen tary about the lib eralization of Czechoslovakia and then simply continue d when the Russian tanks moved in,’ wrote Renata Adler in The New York Times When broadcast by television, was seen by more than 600 million people, and became the first information that the Soviet Army had not been ‘invited’ in.50 The Warsaw Pact invasion, orchestrated by the USSR, invaded Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, in the name of “fraternal assistance” to crush the Prague Spring. Never again would the Czechs and Slovaks view the Soviets as anything but an occupying force. Ji Pelikn, the Czech Radio Director General, said: “‘Comrade aggresso r’ that’s what the people called the former allies. What they most despised was the stab in the back above all by the East Germans. The formerly good rela tions have been irreparably damaged. The masters in Moscow and their sa traps in Warsaw and East Berlin were concerned not in socialism but the preservation of their own power, their imperial power” ( Prague Spring minute 25). The opinion presented by the schol ar Eduard Goldstcker, a Germanist and a member of the Czech Writers’ Un ion, was even more bitter: 49 Oratorio for Prague ( Oratorium pro Prahu ). Directed by Jan N mec. Czechoslovakia, 1968. 50 From the video cassette cover, Oratorio for Pragu e ( Oratorium pro Prahu ). Directed by Jan N mec. Czechoslovakia, 1968, produced by Facets Multi-Media, Chicago, IL and released on November 18, 1998.


48 I must admit that the invasion of Augus t 68 was more traumatic than Hitler’s invasion in March 1939, which I also expe rienced. Hitler after all was an enemy and from an enemy you don’t expect anyt hing good. But the ones who came this time had been trying for years to convin ce us that they were our allies, our brothers, and the guarantors of our inde pendence – and they came to suppress us and destroy our lives. ( Prague Spring minute 26) The new harness imposed on Czechoslova k cultural life was comparable to restrictions from the Stalin era. Gradually a ll the reformers were removed from office. By the end of 1968, the old socialist system was back in place. After the suppression of the reform Co mmunism of 1968, the collaborationist government set about the elimination of a culture. In the cinema well over a hundred feature films were banned for the next twenty years and four of which were deemed especially subvers ive were banned ‘forever.’ […] The Party and the Guests deemed the most controversial of all. (Hames, The Cinema 140) The chairman of cinematography Alois Poled ak was arrested and the production of ambitious screenplays was halted (P a ewski 426). Forman, Jasn, Kadr, Passer, Radok, Weiss left Czechoslovakia. Chytilov Menzel and others who stayed, were practically gagged. N mec was allowed to cross the border in 1974, which he did and emigrated. Over the next two decades, the Soviet puppet government tried to strangle Czech and Slovak culture and turn back the clock to the 1950s. Vilm Pre an, a modern Czech historian, says: “The intellectual community was atomized, split by the new situation, because we lost not only in political sense. We lost the possibility to do our profession. We lost the possibility to publish” ( The Artists’ Revolution minute 14).


49 A good example of the Czechoslovak postAugust ‘68 productions is Vavra’s Days of Betrayal51 produced in 1973. The movie is imbued with a propagandistic content and treats the partition of Czechoslovakia in 1938 in Muni ch, where the prime ministers of Britain and France (Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, respectively) agreed to hand over Czech territories to Hitler and to create a puppet pro-Nazi Slovak Republic. Jan Wiener, a Czech historian, says: It was the Munich Agreemen t, in September 1938 that meant an emasculation of the nation. Here England and France sold us down th e river to Hitler, though Czechoslovakia was firmly bo und to both France and Br itain allied in the Little Entente. They made an agreement about us without us. In 1946, forty percent of the nation voted communists in perfectly free elections. And it was a result of the Munich agreement because people didn’t wa nt to be bound to the British and the French who had betrayed us so much, and they thought it was more realistic to be bound to the Soviet Un ion. Hopes for equality under so cialism were soon destroyed by the violent dictatorship of Stalin. ( The Artists’ Revolution minute 11) The Days of Betrayal was strictly connected to Czechoslovakia’s current situation: Czechs and Slovaks were still in shock after the Soviet invasion of 1968 and the crushing of their fragile democracy. Th is monumental production (227 minutes) had to make Czechoslovak society aware of w ho was their “real” friend and expose their “real” enemy. “It is peace for our time” sa id Chamberlain in London on his return from Munich waving the paper with Hitler’s signa ture. The message to Czechs and Slovaks was clear: Western democracies supporting the Prague Spring could not be true friends, 51 Days of Betrayal ( Dny zrady ). Directed by Otakar Vavra. Czechoslovakia, 1973.


50 as only thirty years earlier, despite treatie s, they sold Czechoslovakia for their own peaceful life. The question “who was our true friend?” did not need a direct answer at all: it was enough to read any newspaper dripping with propagandistic platitudes or just walk the street, where decorations nicknamed “Soviet alta rs” with red flags and portraits of “beloved leaders” were placed every five hundred yards. Jan Wiener, a historian, says: “Policy of the communists between 1968 and 19 89 could be described: a lie repeated a hundred times becomes the truth” ( The Artists’ Revolution minute 14). Vclav Havel said about this period later: “We lived in a state of timeless ness. There was no prog ress only stillness. We waited, hoping for history to resume. Then, on 1977, came Charter of 77” ( The Artists’ Revolution minute 15). “Charter 77” was a manifesto signed in January 1977 by several hundred Czechs and Slovaks of different pr ofessions, religions and ideo logies, which generated an informal civic movement named after the document. “Charter 77” criticized the government of Czechoslovakia for breaking hum an rights guaranteed by United Nations covenants and the Helsinki A ccords of 1975, signed by the USSR and all satellite states. This movement commenced the new era in the anti-Soviet oppositi on, which led – after twelve years – to the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and full democracy. It probably wouldn’t have been possible to receive support from nearly the entire nation in 1968 and 1989 if not for the images shown before and duri ng the Prague Spring and the messages sent through them, expressing the re al, totalitarian face of th e Soviet imposed system. For decades, despite the omnipresent propaganda, collective memory carried such images to release and record them turn when came the time of change.


51 3.3. Poland: Open Att ack at the Hegemony 3.3.1. Historical Bbackground During WWII, all film studios in Poland were destroyed and many filmmakers and actors were killed. In 1938, the last entire prewar year, 21 feature films were produced in Polish studios. Two years after the war’s end, in 1947, only one (P a ewski 747). The necessity of having Polish movies presenti ng war trauma was extremely strong. Nazis placed the Poles third among candidates for physical extermination, after Jews and Gypsies: 16 percent (the abso lute number of d eaths was 5.6 million) of Polish citizens perished during the war. Poland was partitione d between two totalitari an powers: the Third Reich and the USSR in 1939. Both occupa tions brought arrests in street round-ups, concentration camps, and resi stance against occupants. After 1945, the Nazi occupying forces we re replaced by the Soviet occupying forces and a new post-Yaltan order left Poland behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet zone. Any examination, complaints or grievances against the new aggressor were out of the question. Only the Nazis inf licted losses and only the Nazis could be presented and condemned – in the press, literatu re and movies. On a larger sc ale, an army of historians tried-and-tested by the new re gime began rewr iting historical textboo ks and establishing officially binding interpretations of history. Polish post-war movies were worlds ap art from the pre-war productions. Light entertainment was replaced by realist movies analyzing responsibility for historical and public events. In the post-war reality ficti on was not needed: to attract viewers it was enough to present the war and occupation as viewed through Polish eyes. The movies


52 produced between 1947 and 1949 presented concentration camps52, resistance53, the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising.54 There were also comedies, fo r instance about a young couple with housing problems in Warsaw destroyed in three-fourths.55 In 1949, the communist authorities imposed on artistic circles a doctri ne of the Socialist Realism forged and enforced in the Soviet Union since the mid 1 930s. Under an executive order, artists were accustomed to presenting the “real and historically correct” rea lity, i.e. the official version of history. Vice-minister of culture, W odzimierz Sokorski claimed, in the characteristically rhetorical and inflated style of the Part y spokesman: ‘The material power of our [the Party’s] idea is its obj ective truth. The historical truth of our world determines the truth of art. The deeply real truthful ness of our way of living, of our battles and of our victories, requires deeply realis tic modes of representation. Thus, as a phenomenon, demands truthful reproductio n. Indeed every deformation whether intended or not, perpetuates an ideological deceit. Therefore art in the Socialist era can only be shaped by the me thods of Socialist Realism.”56 (Crowley 72) In practice, this policy meant plots glorifying Marxist-Leninist philosophy, presenting everyday life saturated with histori cal processes in which the Communist party and its activists (always absolutely positive) pl ay a key role, presenting the superior role of the Soviet Communist Pa rty, and promoting the providential role of Stalin as a worshiped 52 The Last Stop ( Ostatni etap ). Directed by Wanda Jakubowska, Poland 1948. 53 Forbidden Songs ( Zakazane piosenki ). Directed by Leonard Buczkowski, Poland, 1947. 54 Border Street ( Ulica Graniczna ). Directed by Aleksander Ford, Poland, 1948. 55 The Treasure ( Skarb ). Directed by Leonard Buczkowski, Poland, 1949. 56 Crowley quotes Sokorski’s words from: Sokorski, W odzimierz. “Kryteria real izmu socjalistycznego” [Criteria of Socialist Realism]. Przeglad Artystyczny No. 1-2, 1950, p. 6.


53 leader and Lenin as a deified hero of the r ecent past. In form, it me ant monumentality, halfheartedness, schematism and simplified realism. A slackening of the harness came – in Po land as in Czechoslovakia and Hungary – with the post-Stalinist thaw. Its first signs could be felt in 1955, before Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, when the overwhelming majority of artis tic circles rejected Socialist Realism and the Communist authoritie s waved it aside. From a historical perspective, the deve lopment of the anti-Co mmunist opposition in Poland followed a known pattern: the author ities relatively easily broke up isolated protests, and opposition’s victory came not be fore workers united their efforts with the intelligentsia. The process of this uni fication took more than 30 years. The first mass demons trations in Poland took plac e in June 1956 in Poznan. Authorities sent armed police un its and tanks, and brutally suppressed protesting workers.57 In October of the same year however, communist liberals replaced the pro-Stalinist conservative government. Their leader, W adys aw Gomu ka managed to convince Khrushchev to stop the Soviet army at the Polish borders.58 The Polish thaw however, did not last long: with in two years, Gomu ka and his group made Poles aware that liberalism was only a momentary a nd passing tactics. The next protest occurred in March 1968, when Polish students and a major group of intellectuals demanded freed om of speech, discussion and a ssembly. Despite their appeal for support, the workers did not respond: as im portant centers of both academic life and big 57 “The repression was swift and ruthless as Pole oppre ssed Pole. There were about fifty fatalities” (Service 313). 58 On October 23, 1956, encouraged by the Polish succe ss in negotiations with Kh rushchev, the Hungarians started their protest with a powerful rally supporting Poland and demanding freedom for Hungary. Spectacular destruction of the 75-feet high Stalin’s monument opene d their heroic struggle, ended with the invasion of Soviet tanks, thousands casualties, and bombing of B udapest, what was already presented in this paper.


54 industry, cities saw students demonstrate alone and the police pacify them quickly and, as usual, brutally. In December 1970, the striking shipyard workers took to the streets in Gda sk and in Gdynia. This time, students were on the pa ssive side, and legend has it that in one of the dorms in Gda sk a huge banner was unfurled with the slogan reading: “As you did in March, we do in December.” Street strikes we re an easy target: the authorities released provocateurs into the crowd, who initiated demolishing cars, smashing windowpanes and looting the shops to create an excuse for using tanks and machine guns. The official propaganda claimed six casualties59, however hundreds of de monstrators were killed (Service 366) with over 1000 wounded. This mass acre shocked even the Party elite, and the Politburo decided that Gomu ka, along with his accomplices, had to step down and elected party liberal Edward Gierek the new leader of Polish Communist Party.60 In 1975, the USSR an d all satellite states, Poland included, signed the Helsinki Final Act, a document sanctioning dtente in Europe, but at the same time a charter of freedom for nations and individuals. Its Principle 7 (“Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief”) gave civil rights movements a platform on whic h they could base their appeals and which the Communist leaders themselves had accepted.61 In Poland, loans granted by Western 59 Grudzie 1970 [December 1970]. Web page authorized by the “Solidarno ” Gda sk. 60 His formal title was the First Secretary of the Polish Un ited Workers’ Party; the re al range of his power in the monopartial totalitarian system was the leader of the state. 61 The participating States will respect the equal rights of peoples and their right to selfdetermination, acting at all times in conformity with the purposes and principl es of the Charter of the United Nations and with the relevant norms of international law, including t hose relating to territorial integrity of States.


55 banks helped Gierek’s government briefly reanimate the dying ec onomy, which was based on the unwieldy Soviet economic system of central planning. The state was still, however, an owner of nearly all mean s of production, hence a main employer. Harsh reality of repayment schedule caused an increase of prices without increase of salaries. In 1976, workers of big industrial plants in Ursus and Radom went on strike against new prices. Authorities reacted with particul ar violence: hundreds of workers were incarcerated, brutally beaten during interroga tions, tried for hooliganism and criminal offences, and verdicts were often between te n and twenty years of imprisonment. This brutality stirred up a general opposition. Polish intellectuals set up numerous antigovernment organizations – the name of one of the most important spoke for itself: The Workers’ Defense Committee ( Komitet Obrony Robotnikw KOR ) – and began cooperation with oppositionists from the workin g class. A shared viewpoint was worked out: future strikers would not take to the streets to avoid provocations and casualties, protesting only in sit-ins and with non-violen t methods. Intellectuals established a net of underground press and publications and deve loped close cooperation with media in the democratic world. Since then, any violation of the Helsinki Final Act was exposed and publicized often in headlines of Western news papers. Opposing feelings were heightened after 1978, when Karol Wojty a, the Polish Cardinal from Cracow, was elected the Pope. By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-det ermination of peoples, all peoples always have the right, in full freedom, to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development. The participating States reaffirm the universal significance of respect for and effective exercise of equal rights and self-determination of peoples for the developmen t of friendly relations among themselves as among all States; they also recall the importan ce of the elimination of any form of violation of this principle. ( Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. Final Act Helsinki 1975. )


56 On August 14, 1980, after a su bsequent price increase, a sit-in strike commenced in the Gda sk Shipyard. By the ninth day the Inte r-Factory Strike Committee, supported and advised by the leading Polish intellectuals, s poke for nearly half a million workers in 370 factories in every industry and region of Pola nd. Finally, workers from over 700 factories joined the strike. The main demand was go vernment approval for setting up free trade unions. “Free” in this case meant “free from any influence and dependence on the communist party.” An army of Western journalists, who surpri singly were allowed into Poland, gave a detailed account of the strike’s course. The word solidarno (solidarity), as the name of the future free trade un ion made an international career as did Lech Wa sa, a shipyard electrician and the leader of the Strike Committee. Communist au thorities in Poland realized that their consent to the Solidarity Trade Union would mean breaking the Party monopoly on public life and organizations and wo uld receive a hostile response from the USSR as well as a possible invasion. They did not decide, however, to use force against the strikers. On August 31 1980, the vice-Prime Minister signed an agreement with the Strike Committee. The workers wo n the free trade union62 and the right to strike, relaxed press censorship, pay raises, and a five-day workwee k. After signing the accords, the communist side instantly wanted to break them, as So lidarity’s very exis tence challenged the supremacy of the communist party. In four months, however, Solidarity membership grew to ten million (Poland’s population was 38 m illion then), hence preparations for the abolition of the Solidarity Trade Unio n took the Communists over a year. 62 Full name: Independent Self-governing Trade Union “Solidarity” ( Niezale ny Samorz dny Zwi zek Zawodowy “Solidarno ” ).


57 On December 13, 1981, a gr oup of hard line army offi cers formed the military government and imposed martial law in Po land. Solidarity was banned and opposition leaders, including Lech Wa sa, were detained overnight. A lthough the curfew, sealing of the national borders, disconnection of the te lephone lines, closing the airports and restriction of road access to main cities were gradually removed within three years, repressions lasted for seven years. They were supposed to create and the impression of stability, but below the surface the foundation of the system was rotten. In summer 1988, it collapsed. As price increased, food lines and rationing paralyzed the country. In the meantime, the new Soviet leader Gorbachev, pr omoting his new model of governing, flatly turned down a request of Polis h communist for “broth erly aid,” which in party slang meant a military intervention of the Soviet Army. A new wave of strikes in Poland was beyond the government’s ability to cont rol. The regime offered to re -legalize the Solidarity Trade Union if Lech Wa sa would stop the strikes. Within three days, the country was back at work. Solidarity had proven itself a capable and responsible force. In February 1989, Solidarity, the Governme nt, the Party and the Catholic Church began round table talks on Pola nd’s future. After two months of negotiations, they agreed: on free unions, free press, and pa rliamentary elections. On June 4, 1989, Poland voted in its first democratic elections in 50 years. So lidarity has defeated the communist party by a margin of 10 to 1. Communi sm ended in Poland, the firs t liberated state among Soviet satellites.63 On November 9, 1989, the Iron Curtain’s em bodiment, the Berlin Wall, 63 Free elections in Poland were held on June 4, 1989. De mocratic system was restored in: Hungary – October 1989, East Germany – November 1989, Czechoslovakia – December 1989, Romania – December 1989.


58 tumbled down. Soon communism ended in other states incorp orated into the USSR as Soviet republics.64 At the Malta Summit in December 1989, th e presidents of the USA and the USSR (George H. W. Bush and Mikha il Gorbachev) announced that the Cold War had ended. In December 1991, the Soviet Union di sbanded itself in a peaceful way. The victory in the Cold Wa r and credit for dismounting the Soviet totalitarianism cannot be solely credited to the unification of the Polish opposition, the numerical strength of the Solidarity Trade Union or the Polish Round Table Agreement. These causes were important but would be insufficient without a favorable situation in international politics. The demise of the Soviet system and break-u p of the USSR was primarily caused by the internal and external situation of the Sovi et Union and a new lineup in world political relations. In the international arena, ch anges started in 1978 when Cardinal Wojty a was elected the Pope. It gave tremendous moral support to Polish oppositionists, and was augmented during the triumphant first visit of John Paul II to Poland in 1979 In the same year: Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and was immediately dubbed by the Kremlin “the Iron Lady” for her strong anti-communist attitudes; the hard-line Soviet leader Brez hnev authorized the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which met with strong opposition from the West; US President Jimmy Carter placed a trade embargo agains t the USSR on grain and w eapon and endorsed the 1980 boycott of the Moscow Su mmer Olympic Games. 64 Estonia declared sovereignty on Nov. 16, 1990, Lit huania – March 13, 1991, Latvia – May 4, 1991. Ukraine proclaimed the Act of Independence on August 24, 1991, Belarus – August 25, 1991.


59 In the early 1980s, international tension ro se. Ronald Reagan opened his first term as the President of the United States in Ja nuary 1981. In December 1981, martial law in Poland was declared. In 1983, Reagan openly described the Cold War as “the struggle between right and wrong and g ood and evil” and denounced th e Soviet Union actions as “the aggressive impulses of an evil empire.”65 These three personalities [John Paul II, Reag an and Thatcher] br eathed a new spirit into East-West relations. All three oppos ed communism on moral principle; all three were hugely popular in Eastern Europe – more so than in the West; all three looked unhappy with the accommodations of the previous decades. Reagan and Thatcher honed the twin-track policy of NATO, which held out the palm of peace whilst strengthening its milita ry shield. (Davies 1116) The anti-communist fron t in the West, altho ugh not an official coalition, continuously increased aid to dissident circles in Poland. Technological devices as copiers, printing presses, radio transmitte rs, money funds, food supplies, logi stical and propag andistic support were streamed to Poland mo stly from the USA, Great Brit ain, France and Germany. The Reagan Doctrine66 caused the USA grad ually to drop its dtente policy.67 For the first time, America took a firm course towards the Soviet superpower, commencin g among other things 65 “President Reagan’s Speech before the National Association of Evangelic als, Orlando, FL, March 8, 1983.” 66 “Reagan asserted America’s right to intervene anyw here in the world to support local groups who were fighting against Marxist governments. The assumption underlying this assertion, which later become known as the Reagan Doctrine, was that Soviet-influenced gove rnments in Asia, Africa, and Latin America needed to be eliminated if the United States was to win the Cold War” (Goldfield 969). 67 “ Dtente means an easing of tensions, not friendship or alliance. It facilitated travel between the United States and China. It allowed U.S. farmers to sell wheat to the Soviets. More broadly, dtente implied that the United States and China recognized mutual interests in Asia and that the United States acknowledged the Soviet Union as an equal in world affairs” (Goldfield 940)


60 – or at last announcin g development of a modern and technologically ad vanced defense systems68, and drove the Evil Empi re to economic collapse. The financial inefficiency, Western adva ntage, and embargo on food, modern equipment, and advanced technologies69 put the Soviet economy on the brink of ruin. Mikhail Gorbachev, who became the Soviet leader in 1985,70 comprehended that his state has no chance for any development in the futu re without an influx of Western capital and technology. At the same time, he understood that the West wo uld not support a totalitarian state any longer. The first harb inger of the re-labeling from a totalitarian to a democratic state was introduced by Gorbachev in 1985, as a new policy of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness, which allowed discussi ons and criticism on any topic and “freedom after speech,” as it was immediatel y mocked in the USSR). The arms control negotiations between the Unite d States and the Soviet Union commenced and brought unexpectedly positive outcomes.71 The final act was the di sbanding of the USSR in December 1991 and changing it into a Comm onwealth of Independent States commanded by Russia, this time under the aegis of democracy.72 68 “In 1983 President Reagan’s announcement of the multi-billion-dollar Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), commonly known as ‘Star Wars’ – a space-based anti-IC BM defence system – openl y challenged Moscow to a race that simply could not be run” (Davies 1111). 69 “The West was reluctant to sell advanced technology of military value. The American COCOM list grew to contain many thousands of forbidden commercial items. The East, for its part, believed strongly in economic self-sufficiency, preferring backwardness to dependence on capitalist imports” (Davies 1112). 70 Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was the General Secret ary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between 1985 and 1991 (see footnote #33). 71 “Suddenly in the middle of the talks at Reykjavk [December 1987], Gorbachev struck without warning. He proposed a sensational 50 per cent cut in all nuclear w eapons. […] This General Secretary seemed intent on stopping the Cold War in its tracks” (Davies 1117). Actu ally, it resulted in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union signed in Washington on December 8, 1987. 72 see footnote #34


61 3.3.2. The Role of Art Art played a crucial role in the battle for shaping public consciousness. As usual, the most important was film, as movies reached every corner of the state and touched all social and generational levels. It was particul arly important in the case of young people who did not know any ot her system but the Soviet, an d whose natural sharp criticism required arguments and systema tized background. To them, to talitarian propaganda slogans and absurdities had to be exposed and explai ned, in order to avoid the situation when abnormality replaces normality with full ignor ant acceptance from those who do not realize that other solutions are possible. One-party dictatorships controlled by commu nist party, however, despite liberal appearances, did not change their propaganda and ideology course. Memoirs by Jzef Tejchma give an important clue in this matter. Tejchma, already quoted in this text, was a member of the Polish communist government. In the party circles, he had the reputation of being a liberal, particularly after he authorized releasing Wajda’s film Man of Marble discussed below in this paper. Three volumes of memoirs of this apparatchik, published after 1989 in the democratic Po land, cannot of course be cons idered a reliable historical source or evidence, because the author evidentl y tried to whitewash himself out of concern for his future image. Tejchma, however, did not realize the real natu re of the system he supported and built, therefore the frankness of some of his statements is disarming, surprising and revealing. Here are some samples. A lecture “On the Cultural Policy” dur ing the C.C. [Cen tral Committee of the Polish United Workers Party] course in Jadwisin. The main question: why are the most outstanding creators and inte llectuals becoming members of communist


62 parties that are an opposition, and why do they go over to oppositionists’ ranks when communist parties got thro ugh to the power. (Tejchma, Kulisy 67) After debating with different circles, I conclude there are two tendencies. One exists in the C.C. – to tighten the screw, the other exists in circles – to expand freedom. I am between as a fig leaf: from th e C.C. I conceal artists’ aspirations for independence to avoid provoking harder re strictions. From artists I conceal the intentions of the C. C. to a void increasing discontent (Tejchma, Kulisy 52) For the first time I complained, a bit, about artists. Maybe it is necessary to rule you with a thick club; I wouldn’t be capable of it, but if artists want it, they would achieve what they want. (Tejchma, W kr gu 160) Suslov,73 a member of the Soviet gero ntocracy, who should be in a pensioner’s asylum for a long time, gi ving an award to the Art Academy in Moscow said: “Socialist Realism rejects formalism, decadenc e, primitivism and lack of values in art as a matter of pr inciple.” The stubbornness and consistency of this babble, not having any connection wi th Marxism and socialism, can be only admired. (Tejchma, Kulisy 179) There were grimaces and issues with the selec tion of art works for exhibitions in Moscow or Prague, however in Budapest everythi ng is possible now. (Tejchma, Po egnanie 106) 73 Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov (1902-1982) between 1947 and 1982 was a member of the Politburo and Secretariat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Nicknamed “the Red Eminence,” he helped Leonid Brezhnev to overthrow and replace Nikita Khrushchev in 1964. U nder Brezhnev, Suslov was a chief ideologist in the Party Control Committee.


63 The Prime Minister74 asked me to figure out whether anywhere in the world there is a situation as scandalous as in Poland: the authority cannot edit films according to its own discretion and regard less of director’s opinion. He asked me how it looks in Czechoslovakia. “After 1968 there is no artistic film work in Czechoslovakia, so I will ask about the US SR,” I answered. The boss of the Soviet cinematography confirmed: yes, the author ities do editing but with director’s hands. (Tejchma, Kulisy 202) Tejchma, it seems, does not co nnect a simple fact that co mmunist parties exist as an opposition only in the democratic system while being in power they immediately impose a mono-party, totalitarian system with dictatorsh ip of the proletariat and opposition erased by physical liquidation or pushed to the underground “Tightening the screw,” ruling the artistic world with a thick club, the meekness and obedience of artists in the USSR who cut off everything whenever their authority knits its eyebrows – all th is is rather grim, particularly bearing in mind that Tejchm a describes reality of the mid 1970s. Aesthetic doctrinairism in th e USSR in the days of the omnipotent Suslov, the main Party ideologist who controlled propaganda, me dia and any artistic activity, however, was not different from the norm of Stalinis t times, excluding excessive terror. In Czechoslovakia, authorities censored even artis tic works sent from “brotherly states” and even Tejchma contrarily noticed that “after 196 8 there is no artistic film work,” which statistically was not true. Nevertheless, th ere are positive accents in Tejchma’s notes: a liberal approach to art in Hungarian “Goulash Communism” a nd a situation in Poland in 74 Between 1970 and 1980, the Prime Minister of the communist government in Poland was Piotr Jaroszewicz.


64 which censor’s interferences needed an autho r’s agreement, at least formally, which so infuriated the Polish communist Prime Minister. To sum up, events in Poland developed in a different way from Hungary and Czechoslovakia, where the Stalinis t straightjacket in cultural li fe was restored after Soviet military invasions in 1956 and 1968 respectively. In Poland, the Pozna workers’ revolt of 1956, despite casualties, in the context of international relations ended peacefully: Khrushchev eased up and the S oviet invasion was called off. Events of 1968 and 1970 also did not bring Soviet intervention, and a new Polish Politburo, installed after the revolt of December 1970, was relatively milder. Under no circumstances could this specifi c situation be considered as artistic freedom. Censors could not delete scenes with out director’s consent, nevertheless they could ban the entire film and order its shelving for years. The qualifying process was long and painful. In the beginning, director’s and script author’s individual sense indicated what was allowed and what was forbidden. Then, be fore the production could start, the script was scrutinized at several leve ls. The last take or the last editing cut during the production did not finish the process of filmmaking. On the contrary, it was the beginning of the long road. Firstly, the members of the movie studio watched and di scussed the film. The second stage was an unofficial pre-release screening of a film by bosses of the film industry and representatives of the Ministry of Culture an d Art. These viewers considered not only the aesthetic values but first of all its political meaning, and careless supervisors risked their careers in case of lenience. The third stage, official pre-releas e screening of a film, gathered film critics, filmmakers and writers, journalists but most of all censors, an officer from the Ministry of National Defence and a representativ e of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all


65 led by a deputy minister (or, in case of renowned directors, a minister himself ) of Culture and Art. Rebellious, disobedient or just im prudent authors had to face and stand often hurricane-force criticism a nd accusations from such groups. The last stage was executed by the Main Office for the C ontrol of the Press, Publications an d Public Spectacles, or in short the censorship. Despite this web of obstacles there were still movi es too daring and too difficult to be edited by censors. In 1979, eleven movie titles were blacklisted.75 In such circumstances, the Polish Film School emerged in 1955. Although as a consistent artistic movement it was active only until the mid 1960s, a big group of film directors and screenplay writers continued its traditions and accustomed step-by-step censors, apparatchiks and viewers to a critical ap proach to reality. This process climaxed in 1977 with Wajda’s Man of Marble Then came nearly sixtee n months of the Solidarity period (September 1980 – December 1981), wh en censorship was practically suspended and several movies, critical to the utmost degree of the system, were produced. 3.3.3. Polish Films against Totalitarianism Among Polish movies produced up until 1989 and providing critical analysis of the system, the first was Marek Piwowski’s 1970 The Cruise a daring absurd comedy, a kind of Polish Monty Python. A week end river cruise is turned into a parody of the entire communist system, and presents an allegorical picture of the communist-ruled society in a nutshell. A kind of politburo, and then a dictat orship emerged within a group of unfamiliar people suddenly divided into factions, steer ed by stupid but greedy and wily leaders. 75 An outline of a control process in the movie industry and data are ta ken from: Krajewski, Andrzej. “Jak wykuwa o si film” [How a movie was forged]. Mwi Wieki Vol. 12 (540), 2004, p. 32-36.


66 Actions undertaken by passengers altered into a grotesque representation of political life, and a satire of political leaders and nonsensi cal customs produced by the imposed reality. All this created a simula tion of real life in totalitarian Poland in the la te 1960s and was faultlessly received by viewers as a mockery of the system. The most important anti-co mmunist movie of this pe riod was Andrzej Wajda’s 1977 Man of Marble As a director, Wajda debuted in 1950 but his important works came with the thaw of 1956. Since th en, he has become a chronicler of Polish political and social evolution with moral courage and uncompromising nature. Man of Marble marked the peak of Wajda’s politically involved art. The film explores topi cs condemned by the communist government to total oblivion, re vokes the dark period of the not so distant Stalinist past, and awakens anti-communis t feeling among people. However, most of all, the movie tells about the intellectual and political maturing of the young generation and the passion of discovering history mendaciously contorted by the totalitarian regime. The oddest thing of all is that Wajda, the director, and Aleksander cibor-Rylski, the script writer, created this revolutionary movie in 1977, despite communist censorship and was financed by state funds within a Soviet model of economy, based on a system of state ownership and central planning, where the only owner and sponsor of th e movie (and any) industry was the state. During the Solidarity period (August 1980 – December 1981), when censorship was practically suspended, several movies, critical to the utmost degree of the system, were accepted, subsidized and entered into the st age of production. Out of the most important four, only two were finished and shown in theaters. Releas ed in July 1981, Wajda’s Man of Iron a sequel to the Man of Marble was then the most famous, especially after winning the Golden Palm ( Palm d’Or ) in 1981 at the Cann es Film Festival. Th is most prestigious


67 movie prize in Europe was au gmented the following year by awards from the Spanish and British Cinema Writers Circles for best fore ign film and a nomina tion for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Man of Iron is a dramatic panorama of the Gda sk Shipyard strike of 1980, ending vict oriously with the legalization of the Solidarity trade union, free from Communist dependence. It fills in gaps and threads left incomplete in Man of Marble because of censorship and combines a fictional plot and characters with documentary s cenes of the Polish students’ and workers’ revolts against communist authorities in 1968, 1970, 1976 and 1980. The comedy Teddy Bear by Stanis aw Bareja, released in May 1981 did not receive any important prizes and actually wa s not prized at all, being known for decades only to Polish viewers (it was supplied with English subtitles only several years ago). Nevertheless, within a few months, Teddy Bear which spoofs bribery, the flourishing black market, bureaucracy, corruption and most of all the absurd ity of the Soviet economic system, gathered record-breaking attendance and became one of the best and most popular Polish comedies ever. Even afte r restoring the democratic system in 1989, subsequent generations consider Teddy Bear a cult movie and place it on top of blockbuster lists, while the Man of Iron is presently nearly forgotten by elder and unknown to younger viewers. Ryszard Bugajski’s 1982 Interrogation and Janusz Zaorski’s 1983 Mother of Kings although finished, had to wait years befo re being released to a wide audience. “Upon its completion in 1982, Interrogation was banned, since the Polish government (then under martial law) declared the film inflammatory and dangerous. For years, the film remained unseen, until the director ma naged to flee the country, smuggling out a


68 copy of the motion picture. Since then, Interrogation has grown in reputation until its unveiling at the Cannes Film Festival in 199076, where its star, Krys tyna Janda, received the prize for the best actress. Keywords att ached to this movie in catalogues speak for themselves: Communism, Eastern Europe, Political, Social injustice, Stalinism, Torture, Freedom, Police Brutality, Womens Prison. This film is a paradigm of the communist abuse of power, which for decades afflic ted the population. Although the movie shows scenes that were surrounded by official s ecrecy, the collective memory keeps knowledge of such practices alive. The movie reminds vi ewers of the injustices to those who would rather forget the past, and inform s those who were not aware of it. Mother of Kings dealing directly with Stalinism and indirectly with the entire Soviet totalitarian system, was shelved for five years and released in 1987. The movie received two awards at the Berlin Internat ional Film Festival: a Silver Bear for an outstanding single achievement in the mastery of visual language in the context of a tragic historic era77 and an Honorable Mention as the FIPRESCI ( Fdration Internationale de la Presse Cinmatographique ) Prize. The story shown in this film narrates the life of a wi dow struggling to raise four adol escent sons. Seeing them taking different paths and following their fates, the viewer gets a thorough view of Polish society during several decades. The movie show s that the society created by the Soviet system was not at all monolithic and democratic as the official version asserts. The intersection of private stories with historical events gives the film an important place 76 Interrogation ( Przes uchanie ). Dir. Ryszard Bugajski. Poland, 1982. From the video cassette cover, designed in 1991 by Kino International Corp., 333 West 39th Street, New York NY 10018. 77 The Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival) web page: /1988/03_preistraeger_1988/03_Preistraeger_1988html


69 among those who visualize collective memory. The narration of fictional lives shows both the opportunism and lack of values of the ruling party lead ers and the everyday heroism of common people striving to survive and keep their human dignity. It subverts the discourses of hegemonic power and teaches the viewers to be critical of the regime. 3.3.4. Men of Marble and Iron Wajda’s Man of Marble opened a chapter of the Stalinist period in Poland previously closed, ignored or superficially me ntioned by official propaganda, textbooks on all levels and media. Released in 1977, the movie presented a quest for determining historical identity and roots despite state impo sed bans, restrictions and persecutions. The expressive acting of Krystyna Janda in the ma in role of Agnieszka, a young filmmaker, imparted a sense of accusati on and a cry for freedom. A question should be raised regarding Wajd a’s ability to make a film presenting one of the state’s most concealed issues using state money a nd despite censor’s interferences at all consecutiv e stages of a filmmaking proce ss. Andrzej Wajda explains it circumspectly: Man of Marble wasn’t made on somebody’s bidding, it wasn’t made by somebody’s order. We were talking about making a contempora ry film. We were aware of all the difficulties about the film that concerns labor leaders, heroes of labor. This film couldn’t be shot for ten or twelve years because the hero of labor was a symbol, an icon, an untouchable. The situation changed in 1975 to the degree that Mr. Tejchma joined the Ministry of Art and Culture. And he wasn’t only a Minister of Art and Culture but also a Deputy Prime Minister. His position was


70 extremely strong. And as a former member of the Polish Youth Union, a man who believed that those beautiful sublime mo ments of Stalinist Youth he respected [more than] everything else, are worth immo rtalizing. And that in spite of Stalin, the youth had their ideals, knew why to liv e, where to go and so on. He wanted such a film. […] Here in Poland the film itself often plays a political role, whatever its context. In this case, the film was a political act but ev erything around it was even more explicit as a political act. Everything that happened after the premiere all of that, and everything that happened before the premiere, I mean all those struggles against the film. I’ve experienced this twice very clearly, with Ashes and Diamonds and with this film [ Man of Marble ]. There were many objections, great objections, attempts to torpedo the f ilm but my allies, Minister Tejchma and Minister Wojtczak,78 they supported the film, since they believed that they were personally involved. And what they achie ved was that once the film was made it was shown in the cinemas. ( Andrzej Wajda: A Portrait minutes: 46-47 and 51-52) Tejchma held Wajda in high es teem but treated his movie with utmost cautiousness. On December 11, 19 76, he wrote: Plan of conversation with Wajda: the movie will be released. Certain changes are needed. The main: dele te the last scene from the Gda sk cemetery, because it is a reference to issues of December 1970. Soft en everything what touches police activities in the 1950s. De lete the sentence: “what a dreadful 78 In the 1970s, Mieczys aw Wojtczak (b. 1933) was a deputy Minist er of Culture and the head of the Department of Cinematography.


71 architecture” (it concerns [generally the architectural style of the city of] Nowa Huta but will be associated [by the viewers] with the [loc al] statue of Lenin). Delete the scene with smashing wind ows in the Political Police he adquarter. I added that the film would cause a storm, but it mi ght be a cleansing storm. Wajda and ciborRylski received my remarks calml y, but declared that they ha ve to save face in front of young filmmakers, as many of them re ad the script. If the movie would be reduced and changes would be contrary to author’s consciousness then Wajda would not agree to sign it with his name. But it was rather Wajda’s warning for the future. (Tejchma, Kulisy 234-235) The go-ahead Jzef Tejchma gave to Man of Marble resulted in his dismissal from the post of the Minister of Culture in January 1978. Tejchma recalled in memoirs this fact several times. Here are two of the most representative samples of his remarks: “In my biography an adventure with Wajd a was a positive risk. I’ve lo st a lot, I’ve gained much more” (Tejchma, Po egnanie 121). “If I was asked what cult ural event was connected most dramatically with my four-yea r term as a Minister of Cu lture I would answer without hesitation that an issue with Man of Marble It was the direct reason of my ministerial dismissal” (Tejchma, W kr gu 83). Readers not acquainted with cu stoms of the time may pres ume that after his heroic decision Tejchma, an unconventional liberal punished by removal from governmental office, became an unknown mart yr of the totalitarian system Indeed, it definitely would have happened 40 years earlier in the Soviet Union under Stalin ’s rule: a disobedient Soviet minister or one who only relaxed his vigilance, could have considered himself lucky in a Siberian GULAG camp rather than facing the firing squad. In Poland however, such


72 practices were unknown, particularly in the mid 1970s. The rule “once in the nomenklatura – always in the nomenklatura ” was fully applied from the be ginning of communist regime until its last moments. Tejchma, despite his tr agically serious tone, not only was not hurt but also could not claim that he was bei ng unfairly treated. He was removed from the position of the Minister of Cu lture, yet after several months he was appointed as the Ministers of Education and Behavior and afte r a year spent in Sw itzerland as the Polish ambassador, he was the Minister of Culture ag ain. In the meantime, he was uninterruptedly a deputy Prime Minister and a Politburo member. In this light his 1978 dismissal does not look particularly dramatic. Wajda’s explanation is also neither convi ncing nor exhaustive. He does not mention for instance, concessions he planned to get the green light for the distribution of his movie. Man of Marble exposes Stalinist reality, persecut ions and crimes committed by the communist party in the early 1950s, at the same time that it glorifies achievements of the then present government led by Edward Gierek. The movi e contains long and boring scenes showing the latest investments in roads and buildings: th e new highway cutting through the city of Warsaw, the new airport and the Centra l Railway Station in Warsaw, the biggest steel producing plant in Poland “H uta Katowice.” The mess age sent to future critics and attackers was clear: th ere were mistakes, but Socialis m is the system and way of living for the future, Poland is a modern country now and we can be proud of its outstanding accomplishments achieve d under the present leadersh ip. It was the price Wajda had to pay to be able to send another message this time a coded one, to the viewer. The times do not differ much, the party apparatchiks still try to possess and distort the present as they did with the past. To oppose it, we have to be as persistent and stubborn as Agnieszka,


73 a seeker of truth and a thinki ng individual with a questioning mind. One should always ask nave and simple questions, as nave in this case means honesty. Jerzy Radziwi owicz, performing the title role, describes the protagonist, Mateusz Birkut, as follows: The attitude of that man, that event is such that he is fine and very honest. He does not contrive. He lets himself be used ju st because of his honesty and unawareness. But his internal structure, his ethical skeleton remains untouched. And the basic thing was to play, to show an honest ma n, bright, human. An drzej Wajda spoke to me then “How do you imagine him?” Bri ght, honest, cheerful and with a youthful faith in a sense of all that’s going on around him. And such a man could be deceived. He was nave. ( Andrzej Wajda: A Portrait minutes 48-49) The female protagonist of Man of Marble Agnieszka, a student filmmaker living in 1976, decides to make her thesis movie abou t Mateusz Birkut, one of the heroes of Socialist Labor79 from the early 1950s. Birkut appe ars only in old documentary movies, taken off dusty shelves. Agnieszka can neither find not trace him, but old films suddenly reveal to her the dark side of the Stalinist era: purges, accu sations, arrests, tortures during interrogations, bullying the honest people, treating people and ideas like objects, opportunism of average citizens and party me mbers caring only for their future career. Man of Marble neither criticizes nor negates direc tly. In order to expose artificiality and cruelty founded on absurd basis imposed by the totalitarian system, it was enough to present just fragments of the “true reality,” which in this case is not redundant but a 79 Hero of Socialist Labor existed as an honorary title in the USSR and its satellite countries; it was generally awarded in form of medal and vari ous benefits to manual laborers.


74 rejection of the “propagandistic reality” pr esented by the media. Wa jda creates fictional fragments of documentary movies and of the Polish Film Chronicle, a 10-minute weekly newsreel shown in all Polish cinemas between 1944 and 1995 prior to the main film, used as the main propaganda tool in the movie in dustry. The characters discuss which fragments were presented to the public and which were rejected “because of technical difficulties.” The word “censorship” could not be mentione d in the movie openly, nevertheless viewers knew perfectly well what and who was hi dden behind this phrase. In this way, Man of Marble presents a dichotomy between propagandistic and true reality. It is of no significance that these “rejected” and “approv ed” documents, although filmed in black-andwhite, are not authentic. This st ylistic device was evident, an d viewers treated these fakes as genuine because – according to informa tion kept in the co llective memory and transmitted orally – they presented an honest a ssessment of history an d historical memory. Usually certified for wide dist ribution were movies presenting gilded pictures of an ideal world existing only in propaga nda. Fragments rejected due to “technical difficulties” presented a harsh reality; the pr oblems of the 1950s were only slightly different from those known to viewers of the mid 1970s. Mateusz Birkut, despite sudden fame gained during years when he was being used as an icon of a Socialist Labor, did not lo se his moral purity. When the Secret Police arrested his best friend Wincenty Wite k under false accusatio ns, Birkut stubbornly searched and struggled for trut h and justice. Inevitably, he wa s also arrested and “accused of organizing a terrorist group code name d ‘The Gypsy Folk Band’ and attacking the headquarters of public law and order” ( Man of Marble. Part II, minutes 13-14).


75 Wajda avoids moralizing in both contemporary and retrospective scenes. On the contrary, he often uses situational and verb al humor in the least expected situations. Actually, in the moment of arrest, Birkut was disillusioned, disappointed, disenchanted, and heavily drunk. A mome nt earlier he had paid a street band of Gypsies to accompany him with music and with thei r accompaniment he threw a bric k – tied in a double bow with a ribbon, a symbol of his bricklayer profession he is proud of – at the door of the political police headquarter. This way he squared account s with authorities for unjustly and falsely imprisoning his friend, for arrogance, for cont empt to ordinary people, for gang methods of ruling and for betraying the principles of eq uality, liberty and fraternity. And after this deed, he tottered into the building to be arrested. Being accused himself, Birkut had to testify as a witness in the case80 of his falsely accused and imprisoned friend. A dialog in the court sounds like a skit from a cabaret or comedy stage, which underlines the trag ic grotesqueness of the situation. Judge: – Does the witness recognize th e accused Wincenty Witek, here in the courtroom? Birkut: – Yes, I do. Judge: – During interrogation, the accused Witek has admitted attempting to cause you bodily harm. Did the witness know of Witek’s plans earlier? Birkut: – So he had admitted… Judge: – That’s what I had said. I asked if you knew before hand what he planned to do. 80 The trial takes place just before the 28th week (June) of 1952. This date is coded (“28/52”) in the title sequence of fictional Polish Film Chronicle, created by Wajda as a part of his movie.


76 Birkut: – Yes, I did. I knew about everything, Your Honor. Judge: – Maybe the witness did not u nderstand the question properly... Birkut: – Why? Your Honor asked it cl early. I knew about it from the very beginning. Judge: – That can’t be so. The witness has testified that he trusted the accused and that he’d been deceived. Birkut: – Not at all! It was a mutual action. Judge: – Mutual? That makes no sense at a ll. The accused consid ered the witness a committed activist. Birkut: – That’s not true. Our groups work ed together. Lead workers were to be attacked. So, we chose ea ch other. Both of us were lead workers, so… Judge: – But in your deposition, I can r ead it to you… You st ate something else entirely. Birkut: – All of us, enemies, are liars, Your Honor. And I am the worst. I have already attacked the people’s authorities. With a gudgeon. Judge: – What? Birkut: – A gudgeon. A fish. A small fish. Judge: – You didn’t say that before. During your interrogation, you said something else. I’ll quote: … Birkut: – No need, Your Hono r. Don’t you know what goe s on there? Want me to tell you why I lied? [He takes his jacket off to show scars and bruises after beating during interrogation]


77 Witek: – I’m with you, Mateusz! [turns to the judge] You can do to me anything you want! I retract everything I said. Ev erything! Retract my testimony! I take back everything! [End of the newsreel. Back in the projection room] Agnieszka’s Cameraman: – Well, young la dy, after what I have seen I owe you a small vodka and a large ice cream, whichever you prefer first. ( Man of Marble Part II, minutes 14-17) In 1976, the “Birkut topic” became ex tremely inconvenient for TV officials, especially since the situation in Poland was strained as wo rkers of Radom and Ursus had just started their protests. TV programs were to entertain, bring fun, establish emotional well-being of the nation, execute and put into practice principles of the propaganda of success, hence the truth and dramatic news had to be prepared and dosed carefully. Agnieszka did not obediently withdraw, as he r TV boss suggested. She proceeded in her search for the truth and found traces of Birkut’s son, Maciek Tomczyk (he bore his mother’s maiden name), but before she was able to make a contact, she was suspended from TV. Loosing her job, which was her lif e, loosing her film, which was her passion, realizing she was followed all the time, Agnieszka changes in ternally. The one who helps her to understand what is important in life is her father, a simple and straight thinking elderly railway man. In the m ovie, the father – daughter dialog is dense and significant: Agnieszka: – They got scared. Father: – Of what? Agnieszka: – Everything. Father: – Nobody’s afraid of ever ything. If you’re af raid, it’s of one th ing. What is it?


78 Agnieszka: – I don’t know. Father: – Then find out. Agnieszka: – How? Father: – Find that Birkut of yours. Agnieszka: – I told you, they took away my cameras and film. Father: – And without th ose, you can’t do it? Agnieszka: – What for? Father: – If they were making a film about me, I’d be very surprised not having any visitor. That’s normal. At last, I would be surp rised a little. Well? Are you just going to lie there? Agnieszka: – I’ll eventually get up. Father: – Grab your shoes and bag. Agnieszka: – What for? Father: – I’ve already told you. If the film was about me… Go, fi nd him and talk to him. Then come back and tell me. Agnieszka: – Tell you? Father: – That’s right. Do you have to tell everything everyone? I want to know how it ended. Go on. You’ve got a bus in half an hour. (Man of Marble Part II, minutes 56-60) “You will tell me. I want to know how it ended,” says the father. He emphasizes the superior role of privat e talks between individuals over pap served by official propaganda to everyone. “You” and “I” mean th e truth. “Everyone” means lies. “Private” is counter to “public,” “us” to “them.” The i nner world is safe and trustworthy, the outer


79 world is hostile and mendacious. The simple-m inded father knows much more than his educated daughter does. He kno ws she got involved with the propaganda machine, and was fired because of her honesty. He also realizes th at Agnieszka is not able to put to rights this corroded and corrupted system, yet she may improve herself by finding her own way to honesty. Truth cannot be told to everyone, as th e truth brings fear to those who lie. Truth must be found, witnesse d and preserved, and this difficult, responsible task can be done only by private talks and passing the truth from mouth to mouth. This is a model situation of building collective memo ry, independent and free. Jerzy Radziwi owicz describes the import ance of this scene: […] they took away her cam era and film – it also f its perfectly with what was beginning in Poland. She says she has no camera, no tapes, cannot do anything. The father [...] persuades her to go to Gda sk to meet the son [of Birkut] without the camera, without the film This was a very beautiful moment in the film: Agnieszka starts her own, different way, sh e goes to meet him and possibly to bear witness. This is what late r became the movement for conveying historical evidence of forbidden days. This is what late r becomes the KOR m ovement, underground trade unions, which bear witness. ( Andrzej Wajda: A Portrait minutes 53-55) The next take explains everything: Agni eszka stands at the gate of the Gda sk shipyard and a catwalk over the tracks of the fast city train in the background is shown several times in long shots. Both images ar e allegoric, clearly readable even to the average viewer. Since December 1970, when Gda sk with its surrounding


80 agglomeration81 became the most explosive region of Poland and the center of workers’ protests, this gate became a symbol known to all Polish viewers. The gate with its signboard, shipyard cranes were associated with the December 1970 massacre of workers. In 1970, in the neighboring city of Gdynia, police raked the workers using a catwalk on their way to local shipyard w ith machine-gun fire. These facts were known widely in Poland: some photographs were even published by the official press as illustrations of “Gda sk brawlers and troublemakers” and “acts of hooliganism and vandalism.” Readers, accustomed to read betw een lines, and with help of news broadcast in Polish by Radio Free Europe, the BBC, a nd Radio Liberty from Washington D.C., picked out the tragic truth. Hence, when Bi rkut’s son, finally f ound by Agnieszka, says, “My father is dead” the scenery directs at tention to unofficial, collective memory. “We had to come up with so me kind of an ending in the time that we had. And in the meantime, things had happen ed. There was first of all the crime of the 1970, everything that happened in Gda sk, the pogrom of workers. These events played a great role in a working class consciousness so they had to be incorporated somehow in the film” ( Andrzej Wajda: A Portrait minutes 55-56) says Wajda in an interview. The December 1970 massacre in the Tri-City caused shock and changes in the party and state leadership. Edward Gierek, a new gensek82 who replaced Gomu ka in early 1971, started as a liberal, nevertheless his liberalism wa s also only a faade and the “December 1970 issue” was immediately sw ept under the propagandistic carpet 81 The megalopolis created by cities of Gda sk, Sopot and Gdynia is commonly known as the Tri-City (in Polish: Trjmiasto ). 82 gensek – an acronym created in Russian from Generalnyi Sekretar (General Secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Committee) and used initially in the Party jargon from the 1920s. See: Lewin, Moshe. Lenin’s Last Struggle Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 2005, p. XVIII.


81 presenting embellished pictures of so-called propaganda of success. The communist party in Poland, until the end of its existence83, neither admitted nor repented crimes it committed, endorsed, supported or incited. In the mid 1970s, Wajda co mmunicated with viewers ove r the heads of censors. The language of implications he uses is clear and readable. Th ere are no doubts, that Birkut was killed by the police in 1970 as a shipyard worker fighting for jus tice and human rights. It means that nothing has changed in the syst em, which still does not have anything to do with ideals, spoon-fed to the societ y through official propaganda. In 1976, when Man of Marble was filmed, Birkut’s so n could say nothing more. The real cause of his father’s death could not be named openly. It was said in a sequel of the Birkut saga, Man of Iron shot in 1981 during the second strike in the Gda sk Shipyard and after the victorious legalization of the Independent Trade Union “Solidarity,” when censorship was practically disabled fro m September 1980 to December 1981. Man of Iron takes place in 1980 and presents the strike in the Gda sk Shipyard and the origins of the Solidarity trad e union. Andrzej Wajda explains: When it came to producing the Man of Iron, I asked cibor-Rylski to write the screenplay for the sequel. It was obvious that this had to do with the Lenin Shipyard with these and not some ot her characters. We were conditioned by characters from the former film, Man of Marble and the present situation in the Lenin Shipyard. These two things had to be combined. Obviously, the screenplay was the result of various possi bilities. It was written very quickly, so that I could 83 Polish communist party (officially: the Polish Unified Workers’ Party, Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza – PZPR ), created in 1948, lasted until 1989.


82 begin the film, because I knew that wh at was happening then could not last forever. And if I didn’t manage to make that film, it would never be shown in cinemas. I couldn’t count on showing it to day… [the interview was made in June 1989] Just think: today even I couldn’t be sure that it would be shown. ( Andrzej Wajda: A Portrait minutes 58-59) Jerzy Radziwi owicz, who played both Birkut and his son, Ma ciej Tomczyk, recalls: Wajda faced the terrible task: to tell 24 y ears of history in one film and to tell it quickly, because times might change and it might no longer be possible to do it. And all that was everythi ng around was boiling, when you don’t know how the main event, the subject of the film, is going to end. To this, we had a lot of help from the Shipyard, its workers. We couldn’ t have done it without them, without the Shipyard “Solidarity.” I remember well: no documents, no materials, nobody had written it down, nobody cared, th ere were other things to do at that time. How to learn about the strike in the Shipyard? Ther e is my first scene in the film when the French TV records an interview with Tom czyk and asks him how it all began. Such a great event. The beginning. There were no documents yet: why write down history, which you are just creating? Ag ain, there was the simplest solution. We asked one of the men who participated in the first phase of th e strike, a nice young man who took care of us while we were ther e: “Tell us about it.” And he did. For three quarters of an hour. He told us a ll about the meeting an d the moment when Wa sa jumped over the fence. He kept talk ing for three quarters of an hour, and then Andrzej said: “Well, you have thr ee minutes. Would you tell us everything?”


83 They switched on the camera and I had to report the most import ant things within three minutes. I did it. What was also amazing was the fact that while we were shooting, Wa sa agreed to come and let hi mself be filmed and embrace d. Even though traveling from town to town he was so busy talking to strikers. ( Andrzej Wajda: A Portrait minutes 60-63) Man of Iron ’s retrospective part in one of its threads goes back to 1976, to the exact moment ending the Man of Marble Agnieszka took Birkut’s son, Maciek Tomczyk, to Warsaw, to her TV boss. Agnieszka: – This is Maciej To mczyk, Mateusz Birkut’s son. Well? TV boss: – Nice to meet you. Agnieszka: – Stop foo ling around. I need a ca mera, film and a crew. TV boss: – Excuse me? What for? Agnieszka: – So I can finish my film. TV boss: – Excuse me? Where’s the hero? Agnieszka: – You’ll find out when you see it. Stop fooling around. TV boss: – I’d rather know now. Agnieszka: – You’ll miss the emotional impact. TV boss: – But I’ll get information. Agnieszka: – Fine, but please stand up. TV boss: – Why? Agnieszka: – This must be heard with respect. TV boss: – So what about his father?


84 Agnieszka: – He died in Gdynia in 1970. TV boss: – What are you saying? Tomczyk: – The police killed him in Gdynia. Agnieszka: – He hasn’t even got a grave. Now ther e’ll be a film that will tell his life story. […] TV boss: – Have you gone nut s? You are dragging out the situation on the coast? Meddling in these shi pyard affairs! Now? Agnieszka: – You wanted a c onclusion and you’ve got it! TV boss: – Some conclusion! A guy who’s an enemy of the State, attacks the people’s police armed, and you want to make him a saint? This is total blindness and irresponsibility! Agnieszka: – But the party condemned the massacre! TV boss: – When!? Six year s ago! Now workers are rio ting in Radom, in Ursus! Party Headquarter buildings being burne d, derailed trains, street fights with the police! And you want me to can onize Birkut? You must be crazy! Agnieszka: – There comes a time to settle scores! TV boss: – One moment. You attended elementary school for free. Agnieszka: – Yes! TV boss: – In high school, your parents… Agnieszka: – Didn’t pay a thing! TV boss: – Your education at Film School cost the state... Agnieszka: – A million zlotys!


85 TV boss: – A million zl otys, yes! And that’s the de bt you have to repay! Not working against the state that has inve sted so much in you! Now please go outside and tell that nice young man that this film will have to wait… That we may return to it and he can be a consultant… I don’t know what… Do it skillfully so he doesn’t feel bitte r. Do we understand each other well? Agnieszka: – I’m going to make this film I don’t know how, who cares?! It can even be slides! TV boss: – Really?! Do you have your pass? Agnieszka: – Yes. TV boss: – Let me have it. Agnieszka: – Why? TV boss: – I just want to see it. Agnieszka: – Here you are. TV boss: – You no longer have a pass. An d you’ll never enter this building again! Furthermore, I’ll talk to management and fix it so you’ll never work in film again. They’ll take care of it on a level so high, you can’t even imagine. My advice now is to start looking for a new occupation. There are so many professions! I hope you choose well. Agnieszka: – You son of a bitch. TV boss: – Good-bye. ( Man of Iron minutes 105-110) Set in 1980, in Man of Iron Agnieszka and Maciek have married. Both of them are active members of the undergro und resistance: they print out and distribute uncensored papers, demonstrate, organize rallies. Certainl y, the police arrests th em with frightening


86 regularity. They live with the uncertainty of the next day but certain that the idea of democracy and liberty will overcome the bureauc ratic and inhuman system of the present. They know their limits but they also realize their strength. Agnieszka: – I came here the first time l ooking for Birkut, not knowing that he was already dead. Maciek was wo rking as a welder at the shipyard then. I didn’t know the police had jailed and beaten him twice. I didn’t know anything. I had explored the 1950s and never really seen the present: Radom and Ursus. I had no idea of the conditions Polis h workers worked in. I’ll tell you how a welder works in the double hull of a ship. […] Wit hout it, you won’t understand. It’s what’s most important I met Maciek outside the shipyard. He told me how his father had died. Hoping it would help, I took him to Warsaw. […] Maciek never did run afoul of the law. […] The authorities break the law, making arrests without grounds […] I’m calmer no w. I’ve calmed down. […] It’s a different life here on the coast. You don’t have to choose between success and virtue. Despite the lack of perspectives, you’re more relaxed, with no need to be two-face d. You can say wh at you think. Do what you want and what you think is ri ght. […] Life here, being an activist, means civil death. You are beyond the law, even t hough you don’t break it. Sometimes it’s very hard. But when you get used to it, it can be fun sometimes. There are these amusing situations. And you meet and work with wonderful people. You enjoy foo ling undercover cops. The really nice


87 thing is not being afraid of anything. Even in the sla mmer, you know at least they can’t lock you up. ( Man of Iron minutes 100–105) The importance of the even ts of August 1980 cannot be overestimated. The victory of striking workers in Gda sk made the first breach in the totalitarian wall. The hysterical reactions of communist authorities, martial la w imposed by a military junta led by General Jaruzelski on December 13, 1981 – nothi ng could stop the avalanche. Lech Wa sa, the Solidarity leader and future President of the Polish Republic84, when interviewed in late 1981, expressed his confidence: “I said on the first day that we will win. So we have won. This is the simple truth. We have the basic, fundamental thing: the right to freedom through our trade unions, which we will have. And we will have them the way we will make them” ( Poland: “We’ve Caught…” ). Zbigniew Bujak, a striker from Ursus and a Solidarity activist, shares this opinion, however he declares full of awareness of future difficulties, “Seeing these accords being signed we immediately realized that this is the first stage and it is only now that the real race against time, against the clock begins for us. And real tactical, intellectual struggle with the other party, with those in power is beginning. Because it was obvious to us that there were signing the accords but they will immediately want to break them” ( Poland: “We’ve Caught…” ). Bujak said these words twenty years after the ev ents of 1980. His opinion is controversial and th e question of whether in 1980 the Solidarity leaders were fully aware of the situati on is still open. However, nobody can deny or even undermine that both Andrzej Wajda, the director, and Aleksander cibor-Rylski, the scriptwriter, assessed the situation with remarkable per ceptiveness. Not only did they foresee the 84 Lech Wa sa was elected the President of the Republic of Poland in 1990 and remained in office until 1995.


88 future events during the production of Man of Iron not only did they have their fingers on the pulse of history in 1980, but they were al so able to predict how the system and its servants will retaliate against those who attacked their monopoly. One of the scenes of Man of Iron presents a local apparatc hik. After the victory of the strikers, after signing an agreement between the government and the Strike Coordination Committee, among a general euph oria he says calmly: “[Badecki:] Don’t worry! This agreement is meaningless. Th e law does not recognize agreements made under duress. It’s only a scrap of paper” ( Man of Iron minutes 142-143). Man of Iron ’s final scene is admittedly optimistic, as Birkut’s son goes straight from the Shipyard to the place where his father was killed, and reports: [Maciek:] I wanted to tell you that we w on. That we got what we wanted in ‘68 and what you wanted in ‘70. Now I know for sure we’ll never let them to divide us again, never allow them to deceive us. We will make it through the worst. […] It all still seems lik e a dream to me. But it’s the truth. We’ve all seen it and nothing can ch ange that now. I hope that you are proud of me now. ( Man of Iron minutes 143-144) These lines were prophetic and salutary. The victory would never be achieved without cooperation and organi zed mutual actions undertaken by the Polish workers and intellectuals and without inte rnational anti-communist lea gue. An old truth “united we stand, divided we fall” is repe ated once again as a promise. This is, however, a vision of the distant times that come after nine years. The nearest future inevitably will bring what Maciek calls “the worst” – on December 13, 1981, “they,” the communist authorities,


89 will revoke civil rights, declare martial law a nd establish a dictatorship of the military junta. cibor-Rylski and Wajda, writing and f ilming all this, could view what had happened with a cool, dispassionate and anal ytic eye while in the storm centre. Wajda however seems to minimize it: “But who could have known then, in 1976, that the meeting of Agnieszka and Maciej Tomczyk at the shipyard gate, that gate, would make a new film possible. That hist ory would develop in that wa y. This is really intuition, coincidence, luck” ( Andrzej Wajda: A Portrait minutes 56-57). He is aware, however, of how significant and important Man of Iron was to “our cause”: When I showed that film [ Man of Iron ] in Moscow last fall [1988] and observed the Russians watching it, I unde rstood that even if nobody in Poland wanted to watch it, if I hadn’t won any pri ze, not even the Gold Palm at Cannes, if all the reviews had been negative, it was wo rth making that film just for those few performances. For the first time the Russians saw people who treated their authorities in such a way, who had such a cl ear view as to their individuality, their opposition to the authorities. They watche d it with a great amazement and I think that film – shown for the time being just with the small audience but I left the copy there – I think it’ll develop slowly and those who are rea lly interested in politics will see it, and I belie ve it’ll play an important role in our cause. First of all just to correct those lies about Solidarity that the Soviet papers published in the eighties. ( Andrzej Wajda: A Portrait minutes 63-65)


90 Conclusions Specific political and historical conditi ons shaped the national movie industries and vice versa: the cinematographic creation helped to shape a different world for the citizens from behind the Iron Curtain. Counter measures against pres sure of omnipotent propagandistic and monopolistic practices of the ruling communist parties could be undertaken only indirectly. In th e situation of political repressi ons in the Soviet bloc, an extremely important role has fallen to f ilm. The movies reviewed in my paper demonstrate that moviemakers from satellite states fulfilled this task. They exposed the true face of the system and sustained id eas of democracy and freedom. Their films opposed and thwarted the effects of offici al state propaganda, which created its own image of the Soviet system as ha rmless, friendly and progressive. Any support for independent and critical th inking, any incitement to discursive reasoning cannot be overestimated, particular ly when performed by films, which as a popular art could reach every corner of the Soviet bloc and be understood by the widest audiences. Mass and rapid mobilization in 1989-1990, when satellite states nearly simultaneously broke free from the Soviet domination, was possible also thanks to collective memory shaped and preserved by engag movies.


91 Bibliography Feature Movies Birds, Orphans and Fools ( Vt ikovia, siroty a blzni ). Dir. Juraj Jakubisko, Czechoslovakia, 1969. Cruise, The ( Rejs ). Dir. Marek Piwo wski. Poland, 1970. Days of Betrayal ( Dny zrady ). Dir. Otokar Vavra. Czechoslovakia, 1973. Ear, The ( Ucho ). Dir. Karel Kachy a. Czechoslovakia, 1970 Family Nest ( Csaldi tzfszek ). Dir. Bla Tarr. Hungary, 1979. Interrogation ( Przes uchanie ). Dir. Ryszard Bugajski. Poland, 1982. Joke, The ( Žert ). Dir. Jaromil Jireš. Czechoslovakia, 1969. Man of Iron ( Cz owiek z elaza ). Dir. Andrzej Wajd a. Poland, 1981. Man of Marble ( Cz owiek z marmuru ). Dir. Andrzej Wajda. Poland, 1977. Mother of Kings ( Matka Krlw ). Dir. Janusz Zaor ski. Poland, 1983. Oratorio for Pragu e ( Oratorium pro Prahu ). Dir. Jan N mec. Czechoslovakia, 1968. Report on the Party and the Guests, A ( O slavnosti a hostech ). Dir. Jan N mec. Czechoslovakia, 1966. Skylarks on a String ( Sk ivnci na niti ). Dir. Ji Menzel. Czechoslovakia, 1990. Teddy Bear ( Mi ). Dir. Stanis aw Bareja. Poland, 1981. Witness, The ( A Tan ). Dir. Pter Bacs. Hungary, 1969.


92 Documentary Movies Andrzej Wajda : A Portrait. Dir. Ewa Lachnit. Prod. Halin a Kramarz, for the Foundation for the Jagiellonian University and th e Cracow Alternative Association, 1989. Artists’ Revolution : 10 days in Prague, The Dir. Daniel Sargent Moore. An Eight Winds Production. 1995. Hungarian Uprisi ng : 1956, The Visnews. Films for th e Humanities Inc. 1991. Poland : “We’ve Caught God By The Arm” Prod. Steve York and Tom Weidlinger. Washington D.C. : York Zimme rman Inc. and WETA, 2000. Prague Spring Dir. Gina Kovsc and Christian Vinkeloe. Berlin : Zebra Film/Deutsche Welle, 1998. USSR : Road to Happiness. The 60th Anniver sary of the October Revolution 1917-1977 [ ]. Dir. Valeriy Guryanov. Do cumentary Movies Studio in Leningrad & the Union of Soviet Societie s of Friendship and Cultural Cooperation with Foreign Countries, 1977. Books : Arendt, Hannah. The origins of Totalitarianism New York : Meri dian Books, 1960. Cienciala, Anna M. et al, ed. Katyn : a crime without punishment New Haven : Yale University Press, 2007. Chruszczow, Nikita S. O kulcie jednostki i jego nast pstwach : referat I Sekretarza KC PZPR tow. N. S. Chruszczowa na XX Zje dzie Komunistycznej Partii Zwi zku Radzieckiego 25.02.1956 r. [Khrushchev, N. S. On the Cult of Personality, and its consequences : Secret Speech Delivered by First Party Secretary at the Twentieth


93 Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, February 25, 1956 ]. Warszawa : KC PZPR, 1956. Davies, Norman. Europe, a History New York : Oxford University Press, 1996. Drozdowski, Marian Marek and Andrzej Zahorski. Historia Warszawy [History of Warsaw]. Warszawa : “Jeden wiat”, 2004. Falkowska, Janina. Andrzej Wajda : History, Politics, and Nostalgia in Polish Cinema New York-Oxford : Ber ghahn Books, 2007. -----. The political films of Andrze j Wajda : dialogism in Man of Marble Man of Iron and Danton Providence : Bergha hn Books, 1996. Falkowska, Janina and Marek Haltof, eds. The New Polish Cinema Trowbridge, UK : Flick Books, 2003 Goldfield, David et al. The American Journey, a Histor y of the United States. Vol. 2 Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pear son/Prentice Hall, 2007. Gw d Andrzej, ed. Czeska my l filmowa – tom 1 [The Czech Cinematic Thoughts – Vol. 1]. Gda sk : Wydawnictwo S owo/Obraz/Terytoria, 2005. Europejskie manifesty kina – antologia [European manifestos of the Cinema – an anthology]. Warszawa : Wiedza Powszechna, 2002. Halbwachs, Maurice. On Collective Memory The University of Chicago Press, 1992. Hames, Peter, ed. The Cinema of Central Europe London-New York : Wallflower Press, 2004. Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger, eds. The Invention of Tradition Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1983. Imre, Anik, ed. East European Cinemas New York : Routledge, 2005.

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94 Iser, Wolfgang. The Range of Interpretation New York : Columbia University Press, 2000. Jankun-Dopartowa, Mariola. “Polish Cinema in the period of Tran sition 1989-95.” In : Falkowska, Janina and Marek Haltof, eds. The New Polish Cinema Trowbridge, UK : Flick Books, 2003. Kershaw, Ian and Moshe Lewin, eds. Stalinism and Nazism : Di ctatorships in Comparison Cambridge, N.Y. : Cambridge University Press, 1997. Kornai, Jnos. The Socialist System (The Po litical Economy of Communism) Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1992. Kundera, Milan, The Joke New York : Aaron Asher Books, HarperCollins Publishers, 1992. Legters, Lyman H., ed. Eastern Europe : Transformati on and Revolution, 1945-1991. Documents and Analyses Lexington MA, Toronto : D.C. Heath & Co., 1992. Micha ek, Boles aw and Frank Turaj. The Modern Cinema of Poland Bloomington and Indianapolis : Indiana UP, 1988. Moynihan, Daniel Patrick. On the Law of Nations Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1990. Payne, Stanley G. A History of Fascism, 1914-1945 Madison : University of Wisconsin Press, 1995. Planete DOC Review. 3 Festiwal wiatowego filmu dokumentaln ego, 12-21 maja 2006 Warszawa [The 3rd Festival of the Worl d Documentary Movi es, May 12-21, 2006, Warsaw]. Warszawa : Kinoteka, 2006. P a ewski, Jerzy. Historia filmu 1895-2005 [History of Film, 1 983-2005]. Warszawa : Ksi ka i Wiedza, 2005

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95 Roland, Grard. Transition and Economics : Po litics, Markets, and Firms Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 2001. Sanford, George. Katyn and the Soviet massacre of 1940 : truth, justice and memory London-New York : Routledge, 2005. Service, Robert. Comrades! A History of World Communism Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 2007. Szaflik, Jzef Ryszard. Historia Polski 1939-1947 [History of Poland 1939-1947] Warszawa : Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne, 1987. Tatarowa, Irina. Ergo sum. Poszukiwanie istnienia w polskim i radzieckim filmie 19601990 [A Quest for the Sense of Being in the Polish and Soviet fi lms of 1960-1990]. Warszawa : Neriton, 2004. Taylor, Richard. Film Propaganda : Soviet Ru ssia and Nazi Germany. London, UK : Tauris, 1998. Tejchma, Jzef. Kulisy dymisji. Z dziennikw ministra kultury 1974-1977 [Dismissal – the inside story. From memoirs of Minister of Culture 1974-1977]. Krakw : Oficyna Cracovia, 1991. ------. Po egnanie z w adz [Farewell to power]. Wars zawa : Projekt, (1996?) ------. W kr gu nadziei i rozczarowa Notatki dzienne 1978-1982 [In the circle of hope and disappointments. Daily notes of 19 78-1982]. Warszawa : Projekt (2002?) Tucker, Robert C. Stalin in Power : The Revo lution from Above, 1929–1941 New York : Norton, 1992. White, Hayden. Tropics of Discourse : Essays in Cultural Criticism Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

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96 Articles : Boym, Svetlana. “From the Russian S oul to Post-Communist Nostalgia.” Representations No. 49, Special Issue : Identifying Histor ies : Eastern Europe Before and After 1989. (Winter, 1995) pp. 133-166. Crowley, David. “Stalinism and Modernist Craft in Poland.” Journal of Design History Oxford University Press on behalf of Design History Society. Vo l. 11, No. 1, Craft, Modernism and Modernity, (1998), pp. 71-83. Czigany, Lorant. “Jancs Count ry : Mikls Jancs and the Hungarian New Cinema.” Film Quarterly Vol. 26, No. 1. (Aut umn, 1972), pp. 44-50. Diski, Jenny. “Nouvelle Prague.” Sight & Sound v. ns4 (February 1994), 69. Esbenshade, Richard S. “Remem bering to Forget : Memory, History, Na tional Identity in Postwar East-Central Europe.” Representations No. 49, Special Issue : Identifying Histories : Eastern Europe Before and After 1989. (Winter, 1995), pp. 72-96. Feldmann, Martha J. “Tota litarianism without Pain : Te aching Communism and Fascism with Film.” The History Teacher Vol. 29, No. 1. (Nov ., 1995), pp. 51-61. Menashe, Louis. “Requiem fo r Soviet Cinema 1917-1991.” Cineaste : America’s Leading Magazine on the Art and Politics of the Cinema 1995; 21 (1-2) : 23-27. Platt, Kevin. “Russia, Past a nd Present : The Politics of Sovi et History in the Post-Soviet Era.” The Slavic and East European Journal Vol. 41, No. 1. (Spring, 1997), pp. 135-139. Portuges, Catherine. “Border Crossings : R ecent Trends in East and Central European Cinema.” Slavic Review Vol. 51, No. 3. (Autum n, 1992), pp. 531-535.

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97 Scribner, Charity. “Engendering Solidarity in Poli sh Cinema : Andrzej Wajda’s ‘Man of Iron’ Turns Twenty-One.” The Slavic and East European Journal Vol. 47, No. 4. (Winter, 2003), pp. 551-568. Szczerba, Jacek. “ 60 lat Dyskusyjnego Klubu Filmowego ‘Po Prostu’ .” [50 years of the ‘Po Prostu” Film Society] Gazeta Wyborcza November 05, 2005. Szporer, Michael. “Woman of Marble : An Interview with Krystyna Janda.” Cineaste 18 no. 3 (1991), p. 14. Internet Sources (all entered betw een March 28 and April 6, 2008) A Tan. The Witness Dir. by Pter Ba cs, Hungary, 1969. Bird, Daniel. “Can We Live with the Truth? V ra Chytilov’s Ovoce strom rajskch jme .” CER – Central Europe Review Vol. 3, No 17. May 14, 2001. Blaejovsk, Jaromr. “Bone s, bones, bone-eater. V ra Chytilov’s Pasti, pasti, pasti ky (Traps, 1998).” Kinoeye vol. 2, issue 8, April 29, 2002. 02/08/blazej ovsky08.php Grudzie 1970 [December 1970]. Web page au thorized by the “Solidarno ” Gda sk. Hames, Peter. “Enfant Terrible of the Czech New Wave. Jan N mec’s 1960s films.” CER – Central Europe Review Vol. 3, No 17. May 14, 2001. Heilman, Jeremy. “Movie Martyr.” http ://

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98 Kinoeye. New Perspectives on European film. Online Journal Košuli ov, Ivana. “The void behind the mask Game-playing in the films of V ra Chytilov.” Kinoeye vol. 2, issue 8, April 29, 2002. -----. “Everything You Always Wa nted to Know about My Hear t... An interview with film director Jan N mec.” CER – Central Europe Review Vol 3, No 17 May 14, 2001. interview17_kosulicova.html Transitions Online. Central Europe Review

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NX620 (Online)
1 100
Robak, Kazimierz.
0 245
Cultural response to totalitarianism in select movies produced in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland between 1956 and 1989
h [electronic resource] /
by Kazimierz Robak.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
b University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 98 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: This study examines resistance against totalitarian propaganda in select movies produced in regions subjected to Soviet-imposed totalitarian system. From 1939 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Central-Eastern Europe has experienced two of the most devastating and genocidal political systems in the history of the humankind. Nazism was destroyed with the end of WWII, and met widespread condemnation. Sovietism, commonly known as Communism, survived WWII and the Soviet totalitarian empire rose to the position of the world's second superpower. Effective and organized Soviet propaganda generated a new convincing image of Sovietism as a harmless, friendly and progressive system. In this situation, the extremely important role of maintaining moral consciousness has fallen to the artistic world, specifically film. The scope of my thesis is to explore and analyze the responses to the Soviet totalitarianism in movies produced in European states of the Soviet bloc, between 1956 and 1989.My thesis aims to offer a critical reading of the chosen movies as well as their historical and political conditions. I point out how filmmakers articulated their resistance and analyze it in the context of national culture. The movies I chose to discuss express the reality of everyday life during the Soviet era. Their dissection reflects the mutual influence of history and art in general and in the Soviet bloc in particular. Hence, I offer a reading of the past expressed in the subjective vision of the cinematographic art. Movies not only reflect certain fragments of the reality, they also play an important role in constructing a collective memory. Discussing them from this angle leads to an understanding of the current perception of the past in those countries.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: Maria Cizmic, Ph.D.
Communist propaganda
Peter Bacso
Milos Forman
Jan Nemec
Istvan Szabo
Bela Tarrr
Andrzej Wajda
Janusz Zaorski
Dissertations, Academic
x Humanities
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856